|Wednesday, 11 December 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 106, 97-08-29
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 106, 29 August 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 TAJIKISTAN'S CHIEF MUFTI KIDNAPPEDAmonullo Negmatzoda, Tajikistan's chief Islamic cleric, was kidnapped by unidentified persons on 27 August, an RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe reported. The Interior Ministry on 29 August confirmed that Negmatzoda was missing and presumed kidnapped, but it could not say if there was any truth to rumors that Rezvon Sadirov was responsible. In February, Sadirov and his brother Bahrom briefly held hostage members of the UN observer team in Tajikistan. Two of Negmatzoda's sons were kidnapped in late July. It is speculated that Negmatzoda was going to meet with the kidnappers when he, too, disappeared.
 KYRGYZ WATER COMMISSION CHIEF CRITICIZES LACK OF PROGRESSTurdakan Usubaliyev, the head of the Kyrgyz parliamentary commission on water issues, met with commission members and officials from the Justice and Foreign Ministries on 28 August, RFE/RL corespondents in Bishkek reported. Usubaliyev said that "next to nothing" has been done to implement the parliament's 27 June decision to charge Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan for water from Kyrgyz reservoirs. The parliament called for concrete plans on prices for those supplies.
 RES PUBLICA EDITOR NOMINATED AS PARLIAMENT CANDIDATEResidents of Bishkek's Vostok-5 area have nominated Zamira Sydykova as their choice to fill an empty seat in parliament, RFE/RL correspondents reported on 28 August. Sydykova, who has been chief editor of Kyrgyzstan's only independent newspaper since 1992, was recently released from prison after serving a sentence on charges of libel against the head of Kyrgyzstan's state gold company. From August 1995 to January 1997, she was barred from practicing journalism after being found guilty of libel against President Askar Akayev. Her nomination to the parliament is expected to be seconded at a meeting of the Movement for the Protection of the People on 29 August. Sydykova would take the seat vacated by Mira Jangaracheva in 1996, when she was appointed deputy premier.
 KYRGYZ MUFTIAT TO DISCUSS WAHHABISMThe Muftiat (Muslim Board) will meet in September to discuss the spread of Wahhabi movements in Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. The announcement was made by head of the Muftiat Abdysatar-Agy Majitov on 28 August.
 AZERBAIJAN TO AGAIN RETRANSMIT IRANIAN TV BROADCASTSNizami Khudiev, the chairman of Azerbaijani State Television (AzTV) said an agreement with Iranian Television on re-broadcasting will be signed in September, an RFE/RL correspondent in Baku reported on 28 August. Under a 1993 agreement, AzTV aired a one-hour Iranian Television broadcast each day but suspended those broadcasts in June 1997 because of alleged extremist and anti-Azeri propaganda. Iran had stopped Azeri broadcasting to Iran almost immediately after it began in 1993, citing technical reasons. Khudiev said that under the new agreement, Azeri programs in Iran and Iranian broadcasts in Azerbaijan will be aired at the same time.
 NEW TREASON TRIAL IN AZERBAIJANIn an interview published in "Panorama" on 28 August, Minister of National Security Namiq Abbasov said a group of people involved in an attempted coup d'etat will go on trial within the next two months. Abbasov said an assassin hired by former Prime Minister Suret Husseinov to murder President Heidar Aliev has been arrested in Baku along with other members of a terrorist group planning a series of attacks in Baku. Abbasov also claimed that the terrorist group unsuccessfully attempted to blow up the office of the Permanent Representative of Naxcivan Republic in Baku. Abbasov accused former President Ayaz Mutalibov and ex-KGB chief Vagif Guseinov of being behind the plot.
 CHINA SEEKS EXPANDED TIES WITH AZERBAIJANWang Bingquian, the deputy leader of the Chinese parliament, said on August 28 that Beijing wants to dramatically expand its ties with Baku on all levels, ITAR-TASS reported. Wang made his remarks on arriving in the Azerbaijani capital for a four-day official visit. China and Azerbaijan signed a friendship and cooperation accord during President Aliev's visit to Beijing in 1994.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 BOSNIAN SERB CROWD ATTACKS NATO TROOPSA crowd of Bosnian Serbs threw stones and Molotov cocktails at SFOR troops and UN police in Brcko on 28 August. NATO troops fired back with tear gas, in what is the first time the peacekeepers have used such deterrents against civilians in Bosnia. Two U.S. soldiers and one Serbian woman were injured, and 25 UN police vehicles were destroyed. U.S. helicopters flew over the town throughout the night. The hard-line leadership of Radovan Karadzic called on Bosnian Serbs to rally after SFOR backed police loyal to Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic in their attempt to take over a police station. Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian representative on the Bosnian presidency and Karadzic's chief spokesman, congratulated the crowd on Pale Radio: "I hope that you will repeat this feat a hundred times if we find ourselves in danger because we have the right to defend ourselves."
 U.S. WARNS SERBS NOT TO ATTACK SFORU.S. spokesmen in Bosnia and Washington warned the Bosnian Serbs on 28 August not to attack peacekeepers again. Brcko was quiet on 29 August after UN police completed an evacuation of their personnel from the town. Karadzic's police have surrounded a UN police station outside Brcko. SFOR increased troop strength in Bijeljina following demonstrations by organized Bosnian Serb crowds on 28 August. In several other towns across northern Bosnia, Plavsic's police took control of police stations. In related news, the "Los Angeles Times" of 29 August quotes U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke as saying NATO will protect Plavsic if Karadzic's supporters try to overthrow her. In Sarajevo, Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim member of the joint presidency, said that recent developments involving rival Serbian factions indicate that Plavsic is gaining the upper hand in what he called a critical phase for the Dayton agreement.
 PLAVSIC FOUNDS NEW POLITICAL PARTYThe president of the Republika Srpska founded the Serbian People's League (SNS) in Banja Luka on 28 August. The new party will take part in the local elections slated for September and in the Bosnian Serb elections she has called for October. Plavsic said the SNS will put an end to the Bosnian Serb practice "of conducting political life as though it were an intrigue" and will make sure that the media provide "objective information," an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Banja Luka. Plavsic was recently expelled from the governing Serbian Democratic Party, of which she was a founding member. And in Sarajevo, election organizers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe announced that more than 2.5 million Bosnian citizens have registered to vote in the September elections.
 PLAVSIC WANTS ECONOMIC RELATIONS WITH CROATIAPlavsic told the independent Zagreb weekly "Globus" of 28 August that she hopes the Republika Srpska and Croatia will establish economic links "as soon as possible." She added that she fondly remembers her student days in Zagreb and knows that Serbs and Croats can get along without getting into political arguments. Western Bosnia, including Banja Luka, traditionally had closer economic links to Zagreb than to Belgrade. Moreover, economic relations with Croatia would make her part of the Republika Srpska less dependent on Serbian territories controlled by her rivals. The interview is her first with a Croatian publication for some time. "Globus" is a popular, nationalist magazine that made its name through sensationalist, anti-Serb reporting during the war.
 BOSNIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRAT ON ELECTION PROSPECTSZlatko Lagumdzija, the president of the multi-ethnic Social Democratic Party, told "Oslobodjenje" of 28 August that his party can beat the nationalists in the local elections. He says that the large Serbian, Croatian, and Muslim nationalist parties will be deprived of their usual electoral advantage of having nationally known leaders on the ballot. Lagumdzija added that his party hopes to win votes by putting forward well- known local personalities who will offer concrete solutions to local problems. The Social Democrats -- also known as the reformed communists -- have previously obtained their best electoral results in Tuzla and Sarajevo.
 ISRAEL TO RECOGNIZE CROATIA IN RETURN FOR ARMS DEAL?Despite concerns about Croatia's fascist past, the Israeli government will recognize that country in the hope of making a major arms sale, the Israeli daily "Haaretz" reported on 28 August. The deal is allegedly worth some $200 million and has been under discussion for several years. Soon after gaining independence in 1991, Croatia began a far-reaching program to bring its military up to NATO standards. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has urged Israel not to recognize Croatia, despite Zagreb's apology for fascist crimes during World War II (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 1997).
 ALBANIA, ITALY SIGN MILITARY DEALAlbanian Defense Minister Sabit Brokaj and his Italian counterpart, Beniamino Andreatta, signed an agreement on 28 August in Rome to revitalize the Albanian army, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Italy will help Albania restructure and modernize its forces by providing equipment, advice, and training totaling $17 million. Some 300 Italian military experts will work in Albania, and Albanian officers will undergo training in Italy. Rome will also provide an additional $200 million to other Albanian state institutions, such as the police, customs, health services, schools, and the judiciary as part of a three-year EU program. Meanwhile, negotiations about the return of 10,000 Albanian refugees from Italy are continuing. "Koha Jone" reported that the refugees are likely to be sent home in three stages.
 COUNCIL OF EUROPE TO PROMOTE ALBANIAN LEGAL REFORMAn expert commission from the Council of Europe offered help on legal reform to Prime Minister Fatos Nano and other top officials in Tirana on 28 August, "Zeri i Popullit" reported. In other news, Democratic Party (PD) spokesman Genc Pollo said that the party will not participate in parliamentary commissions unless it is allowed to name the head of the chief anti-corruption body, known as the State Control Commission, "Rilindja Demokratike" reported on 29 August. A round-table of political parties agreed before the June elections that a member of an opposition party should head the commission, but some Socialist legislators now want a Socialist to chair that body.
 NEW PROSECUTOR-GENERAL IN ROMANIAPresident Emil Constantinescu on 28 August appointed Sorin Moisescu as prosecutor-general, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He replaces Nicolae Cochinescu, who was dismissed several days ago. The 58-year-old Moisescu was appointed a judge at the Supreme Court of Justice in 1990. He had been a presidential counselor in charge of the Judicial Department since February 1997. He had also coordinated the anti-corruption campaign launched by President Constantinescu. Moisescu was not a member of the communist party and had no links with the communist secret police, according to a statement released by the President's Office.
 MOLDOVAN PREMIER MEETS CHURCH REPRESENTATIVESAfter meeting with Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc on 28 August, deputy Vlad Cubreacov, who represents the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church, said Ciubuc displayed "good-will" toward finding a solution to the issue of the Church's official recognition, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Cubreacov said that the Bessarabian Church on 25 August submitted an amended version of its statutes, which take into account objections raised by the government. He added that the premier was "in general satisfied with this version," although he still "raised some objections." Meanwhile, President Petru Lucinschi recently told Metropolitan Vladimir of the rival Moldovan Orthodox Church not to "make a drama" out of the recognition of the Bessarabian Church, Moldovan media reported. Lucinschi added that recognition would "reduce tensions" and that the Council of Europe is also demanding recognition of the Church.
 MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT PROMULGATES LAND SALE LAWPresident Petru Lucinschi signed the land sale law on 27 August, which is Independence Day in Moldova. The law, passed by the parliament in late July, was one of the IMF conditions for signing a memorandum with the Moldovan government. Meanwhile, the Party of Moldovan Communists announced that it has collected the 200,000 signatures necessary for a referendum on the law, which the party opposes.
 MOLDOVAN LIBERAL PARTY TO JOIN OPPOSITION BLOCThe Standing Bureau of the Moldovan Liberal Party (PLM) on 28 August announced it will run jointly with the Party of Democratic Forces (PFD) and the National Peasant Party (PNT) in the 1998 parliamentary elections. PLM Deputy Chairman Vlad Darie told BASA-press that the decision was due to the fact that the other opposition bloc, the Democratic Convention of Moldova, has treated the PLM badly. The PNT has adopted a similar decision, but the PFD has yet to make its position known. The three parties' leaders will meet on 6 September to decide on forming a joint electoral bloc.
[C] END NOTE
 MACEDONIA SLOWLY EMERGES FROM RECESSIONby Michael Wyzan
In some respects, Macedonia's macroeconomic performance became satisfactory by 1996. Retail-price inflation fell to 0.25 percent annually, the lowest level among transition economies that year. Price stability continued in the first five months of 1997, with 3.2 percent deflation.
Also in 1996, the budget deficit in 1996 was -0.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) owing to a large surplus on the central government budget. GDP growth was positive (1.6 percent) for the first time since independence, as was industrial production growth (3.2 percent). Those positive tendencies continued in the first half of 1997, with industrial output rising by 2.4 percent.
Nonetheless, the economy still faces severe problems. A comparison between those seeking work and those officially considered "employed" yields an unemployment rate of 41 percent for 1996. A more realistic estimate of those economically active results in a rate of 27 percent for last year, which is still the highest among transition countries. Moreover, unemployment continues to rise (and employment to fall).
Foreign trade results were disappointing in the wake of the end in late 1995 of both the Greek embargo against Macedonia and of the UN sanctions against federal Yugoslavia. The current account deficit in 1996 was $345 million, up from $227 million in 1995. The increase in the trade deficit from $455 million in 1995 to $520 million in 1996 was due to a fall in exports from $652 million to $503 million (imports were virtually unchanged). Foreign trade figures for January-May 1997 reveal little change from last year, although exports increased slightly.
Before the lifting of most UN sanctions against federal Yugoslavia in November 1995, Macedonia traded with that country but such commerce went unreported. After November 1995, a major increase in (reported) trade with federal Yugoslavia was expected. The delay until October 1996 in establishing a tariff-free trade regime undoubtedly limited that increase.
In fact, (reported) exports to Serbia and Montenegro rose from $85 million in 1995 to $241 million in 1996. Another encouraging sign was the increase in trade with Greece, with exports rising from $14 million to $63 million and imports from $29 million to $83 million. However, those export increases were more than offset by declines in exports to the rest of the EU (from $394 million to $239 million) and to the former Soviet bloc (from $446 million to $126 million).
The government blames those disappointing exports on such factors as the slowdown in economic growth in the EU, Bulgaria's economic collapse, and livestock diseases as well as other agricultural problems. Although such developments undoubtedly played roles in the export decline, they are not severe enough to explain a fall of the magnitude that occurred. Moreover, such a situation is especially worrisome in a country that has attracted little foreign investment, is accumulating arrears in principle and interest to the London Club of commercial bank creditors, and whose national bank's foreign reserves are low ($268 million at the end of 1996) and declining.
Economists often seek to explain a worsening current account by looking for a "real effective appreciation" of the currency. In other words, they would look to see if a country's exchange rate failed to depreciate fast enough to make up for its inflation rate being higher than in its major trading partners?
But in the case of Macedonia, inflation in 1996 was lower than in the EU and the U.S. The national bank even calculates that the competitiveness of the country's exports increased by 4 percent in 1996. However, since such competitiveness declined in 1994 and 1995, it was down 9 percent on 1993 levels.
Declining competitiveness is an especially severe problem in former Yugoslav republics, because their price levels and wage rates are closer to EU ones than is the case in other transition economies. Macedonia's average monthly wage has been more than $200 since September 1994, This means labor costs there are closer to those in Estonia or Slovakia than to those at similar levels of development, such as Bulgaria or Romania.
The high price level in Macedonia is partly the result of historical factors. But it also reflects a strategy beginning in the fourth quarter of 1995 to make the exchange rate the main economic policy variable. A stable denar fights inflation but at the cost of declining export competitiveness and a somewhat depressed economy.
In recognition of this problem, the government in early July devalued the denar against the Deutsche mark by 16 percent and introduced such measures as a wage freeze and cuts in public expenditures. Those steps were taken at the insistence of the IMF, which has supported and guided Macedonia's reforms. In November 1996, the fund awarded Skopje a three-year $80 million loan.
The author is a research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty