|Monday, 18 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 110, 97-09-04
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 110, 4 September 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 AZERBAIJAN SEEKS TO INTENSIFY COOPERATION WITH U.S.President Heidar Aliev on 3 September issued a decree instructing cabinet ministers, the Foreign Ministry, and the National Bank to intensify dialogue and cooperation with their U.S. counterparts, Turan and Interfax reported. The Foreign Ministry was also ordered to maintain closer contacts with France and Russia. Those two countries and the US are the co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group, which is mediating a settlement of the Karabakh conflict. Aliev also charged the Foreign and Defense Ministries to expand military cooperation with the U.S. under the aegis of NATO's Partnership for Peace program and the North Atlantic Cooperation Council and to work more closely in the fields of security and arms control. The "Turkish Daily News" on 4 September reported that Azerbaijan, the U.S., and Israel are supplying intelligence data to Turkey on the planned transfer of Russian S-300 missiles to Greek Cyprus.
 AZERBAIJAN CONCERNED ABOUT RUSSIAN-ARMENIAN TREATYSpeaking at a press conference in Moscow on 2 September, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin denied that the 29 August Russian- Armenian Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance is "aimed at a third party, notably Azerbaijan," Interfax reported. On 1 September, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov had told Moscow's ambassador to Baku that he was "concerned" and "bewildered" at the treaty. Hasanov also responded to Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan's statement that the treaty provides for military assistance if one of the signatory states is attacked. Hasanov said the statement is an "open challenge to Azerbaijan, which is itself the victim of aggression by Armenia," according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 4 September. Azerbaijani state foreign policy adviser Vafa Gulu-Zade told the newspaper that if Azerbaijan tries to reconquer territories currently occupied by Armenian forces, it will be drawn into a war with Russia.
 OSCE UPBEAT ON ABKHAZIANiels Helveg Petersen, the Danish foreign minister who is also OSCE chairman-in-office, has said the prospects for resolving the Abkhaz conflict are "encouraging," ITAR-TASS reported on 3 September. Petersen was in Tbilisi in late August for talks with the Georgian leadership on both Abkhazia and South Ossetia. On 2 September, the first day of the fall session of the Georgian parliament, speaker Zurab Zhvania said the attitude of the Russian leadership toward resolving the Abkhaz conflict has improved, according to Interfax. Parliamentary deputies from several factions, however, consider the Georgian government's Abkhaz policy has resulted in "deadlock." They intend to create a coalition to restore Georgian hegemony over the region, the Caucasian Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development reported on 3 September, citing "Rezonansi".
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT CANCELS PLANNED MOSCOW VISITPresidential press secretary Vakhtang Abashidze said on 4 September that Eduard Shevardnadze has canceled his planned visit to Moscow to take part in the city's 850th anniversary celebrations, Interfax reported. Shevardnadze's decision was taken in response to a statement on 1 September by Col.-Gen. Andrei Nikolaev, the Russian Federal Border Service director. Nikolaev said that his men will use "all available means" to prevent some 300 trucks carrying alcohol from entering the Russian Federation. The convoy has been halted for several weeks at the Georgian-Russian frontier. Gen. Valerii Chkheidze, Nikolaev's Georgian counterpart, said on Georgian Radio on 3 September that Russian prohibition is an "attempt to discredit Georgia."
 PROBLEMS ON TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDERRussian border guards on 3 September stopped eight men from crossing into Tajikistan from Afghanistan, killing five of the intruders, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. One border guard was wounded during the brief exchange of fire. The three men who survived fled back to Afghanistan. The incident comes one day after an ethnic Tajik serving in a Russian border guard unit near the Pyanj border crossing was killed. Authorities said that the 2 September attack was a "terrorist action." The amount of drugs confiscated in Central Asia has increased recently, likely because of the advent of winter and the accompanying snowfalls that will block the major routes from Afghanistan to its northern neighbors.
 KAZAKH PRESIDENT WRAPS UP VISIT TO ARAB STATESNursultan Nazarbayev on 3 September ended his tour of several Arab states in the Persian Gulf area, TAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Nazarbayev left Oman, his last stop, having signed agreements on cooperation between the two countries' Foreign Ministries. He also discussed with Omani officials how to bring Kazakh oil to the Persian Gulf. Oman has invested in Kazakhstan's Tengiz oil field. Previously, Nazarbayev was in Bahrain, where he signed agreements on avoiding double taxation and on investments. Bahrain also raised the possibility of opening an embassy in Kazakhstan soon. The main goal of Nazarbayev's tour, which started in Kuwait, was to encourage the Gulf states to invest in Kazakhstan.
 UZBEKISTAN OPENS EMBASSY IN ISRAELUzbekistan on 3 September opened an embassy in Israel, ITAR-TASS reported. From 1992, Uzbekistan had a consulate in Tel-Aviv. Acting Uzbek ambassador to Israel is Rustam Isayev, who was the former consul. At the opening ceremony, Isayev said the friendship between Israel and Uzbekistan is much older than five years. He recalled that Jews have been living in Uzbekistan for centuries and that many found refuge in Uzbekistan during World War Two.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 CROATIA STARTS PROCEEDINGS AGAINST WAR CRIMINALSThe Zagreb District Court on 3 September opened war crimes proceedings against four former members of a special police unit who were recently arrested (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 1997). The four exercised their right to remain silent in response to the court's questions, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Croatian capital. The Split-based weekly "Feral Tribune," in which the story of the crimes against Serbian civilians first appeared, has received at least one bomb threat in connection with the article. Croatian independent media noted that Tomislav Mercep, a politician and the former commander of the police unit, has not been arrested. The independent journalists added that the four accused might be able to shed light on the role of some high-ranking officials in covering up war crimes. The war crimes tribunal in The Hague has requested that Croatia provide it with information about the case of the four policemen.
 WESTENDORP SAYS BOSNIAN ELECTIONS WILL GO AHEADCarlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, and his deputy Jacques Klein told Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade on 3 September that the Bosnian local elections must go ahead on 13-14 September. The two diplomats rejected Milosevic's call for a presidential and parliamentary vote at the same time in the Republika Srpska (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 1997). The same day, Milosevic told three of the leading Bosnian Serb hard-liners -- Bosnian joint presidency member Momcilo Krajisnik, Prime Minister Gojko Klickovic, and parliamentary speaker Dragan Kalinic -- not to boycott the local elections.
 BOSNIAN UPDATEThe U.S. State Department on 3 September announced that SFOR will retake the television transmitter near Bijeljina if the hard-line Serbs break the agreement whereby SFOR recently returned the facility to police loyal to Radovan Karadzic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 1997). In Bern, the Swiss government stated that Karadzic has no bank account in Switzerland. In Sarajevo, a bomb exploded near Roman Catholic Church offices, but no injuries were reported. And in the east Slavonian town of Vukovar, a bomb went off near the post office.
 ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES SWEEPING PRESS LAWAll parties in the parliament voted for the new press law on 4 September, Albanian state television reported. The new law states simply that "the press is free" and "the freedom of the press is protected by law." The October 1993 press law had restricted journalists' access to information, allowed for confiscation of publications on vague grounds, and provided for large fines on editors publishing "punishable material." Meanwhile, U.S. and Albanian jurists told RFE/RL that the recent changes in the statutes of state radio and television on regulating use of news air time are not clearly formulated and hence will allow much room for interpretation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 1997).
 ALBANIAN FORMER PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER IN HOSPITALPjeter Arbnori was taken to the hospital in a critical condition on 3 September, some two weeks after launching a hunger strike, "Dita Informacion" reported. Doctors said, however, that his life is not in danger. Arbnori is demanding that the opposition be legally guaranteed one- third of political news air time. Meanwhile, a bomb went off outside a lawyers' office in Tirana and destroyed a small shop on 3 September, but nobody was injured, "Koha Jone" reported. There is no information yet about the possible motive. Eye witnesses told RFE/RL that another bomb exploded later that day in central Tirana, but there are no reports of injuries or damage. Also on 3 September, police found a cache of arms, including machine guns and hand grenades, in the house of a former presidential guard who committed suicide after committing a murder, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported.
 PURGES IN ALBANIAN MILITARY?The government has sacked a number of high-ranking officers and is expected to appoint replacements soon. Defense Minister Sabit Brokaj recently asked the country's 25 generals to resign. A NATO military adviser, however, told RFE/RL on 4 September that Western governments have urged the Albanian government not to conduct political purges in the military. The advisor added that the Albanian army is too large and that a similar-sized NATO country would have only one general.
 ROMANIA TO LIMIT DEBT PURCHASES BY FOREIGNERS?The "Wall Street Journal Europe" reported on 3 September that Romania may limit the amount of its debt that foreigners can purchase. The newspaper cited what it called an "advance copy" of a government decree. It said stockbrokers would have exclusive rights to sell Treasury bills to non- resident foreigners and that the Finance Ministry could impose limits on the amount sold to them. The decree reportedly would impose a 1.5 percent tax on foreign purchases of Bucharest's three-month and six-month Treasury bills. The "Wall Street Journal Europe" said the decree is likely to be enacted within the next few days.
 CHISINAU CONDEMNS FOREIGN PRESENCE AT TIRASPOL ANNIVERSARYThe Moldovan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has condemned parliamentary deputies from other countries who joined in Tiraspol's 2 September Independence Day celebrations. In a statement issued 3 September, the ministry said leftist politicians from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine have complicated the situation in the breakaway region by encouraging the idea of independent statehood for the self-proclaimed Transdniestr Republic. The statement singled out Oleg Mironov, a Communist Party deputy in the Russian State Duma, who was quoted by the Infotag news agency as saying that "Russia is interested in the Transdniestrian Republic's existence and will promote its international recognition."
 BULGARIAN BUSINESS BLOC EXPELS TWO MEMBERSTwo parliamentary deputies from the Bulgarian Business Bloc were expelled from the party on 3 September by party leader George Ganchev, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. The Business Bloc now has 10 deputies in the National Assembly, the minimum stipulated by law for the existence of a parliamentary group. Ganchev accused one of the expelled deputies, Christo Ivanov, of having worked as a secret agent in the Soviet-era Security Service. Ivanov told a press conference after his expulsion that Ganchev had accepted a $100,000 campaign contribution earlier this year from the controversial business group Orion, which reportedly has close links to Socialist ex-Prime Minister Zhan Videnov. Ivanov and the other expelled member of parliament, Christo Petrov, have become independent deputies.
[C] END NOTE
 EU RETHINKS ITS FUNDING TO EASTby William Echikson
The European Union set up its TACIS and PHARE programs five years ago to aid the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. When the two programs were launched, they focused on providing emergency food and transport aid. Since then, they have expanded and evolved to embrace hundreds of separate projects in 25 countries. Recent reports, however, criticize their effectiveness.
Under a mandate from the European Parliament, independent consultants prepared so-called interim evaluations in August. At the same time, the EU's Luxembourg-based Court of Auditors carried out audits of the two programs. Significant overlap was uncovered in the two aid programs. In theory, PHARE helps Central and Eastern Europe, while TACIS is designed for the former Soviet Union, except for the Baltics. But in practice, the two often duplicate each other.
Worse, almost two-thirds of the aid money goes to highly paid Western consultants, including wealthy multi-national consulting and accounting groups. Those expensive consultants do not even record their working hours, the Court of Auditors complained. In particular, consultants working in Ukraine did not bother "to warn their superiors of the alarming situation in the nuclear-power stations."
The auditors found that, because of the heavy use of consultants, the aid money produced few concrete, lasting results. "About 80 percent of PHARE projects managed on a decentralized basis are spent on contracts for services, supplies, or work," the report concluded. Also, EU officials prefer to stay in comfortable Brussels rather than resettle in the countries receiving the aid.
The supposed benefactors of the EU's are furious. One Russian member of parliament told EU investigators. "TACIS programs are supervised now by foreign specialists whose work is paid at the expense of funds allocated for our country.... In fact, TACIS [is helping solve] the problem of unemployment in the EU."
Bureaucratic bumbling means that much money approved by the EU's political leaders is never spent. PHARE still has not managed to disburse $2.2 billion. Nonetheless, PHARE's budget is scheduled to rise from $1.4 billion in 1997 to $1.76 billion in 1999.
TACIS's budget is about half that amount, even though the countries in TACIS are more backward than their neighbors in PHARE. But the EU Court of Auditors noted in its report that only a third of the $180 million allocated to improve Ukrainian nuclear safety has been disbursed.
Months are needed to get EU programs up and running, but many of the countries receiving the aid are moving fast toward market economies. The EU's TACIS Interim Evaluation report acknowledged that "most projects are outdated even before the tenders make their bids and strategy proposals." At the same time, it notes that "poor projects are rarely terminated." Only 10 TACIS projects were canceled owing to poor performance. But 80 programs were able to run their full course, despite signs they had failed to reach their interim objectives. The two programs are funding too many separate projects, the report concluded.
PHARE and TACIS official are pledging to change their ways in response to such criticism. "This is a wake-up call," an unnamed PHARE official admitted. "We realize that our program has to be revised." PHARE officials say that in the future only projects costing more than $2.2 million will be approved in the hope that fewer larger projects will be easier to control than numerous smaller ones.
Instead of continuing to divide funds into 13 areas, PHARE will focus on funding infrastructures. For example, the main Berlin to Warsaw highway will be improved. Up to 70 percent of the overall program will be spent on such projects. A second priority will be preparing Central and Eastern European recipients to join the EU. Money will go toward computerizing customs facilities and upgrading other public institutions to meet EU standards.
The poor -- or even nonexistent -- image of the two programs has also been sharply criticized. Some PHARE and TACIS officials would like to change the programs' names to something more recognizable, such as "Europa." When the Rowland Company's contract to promote the two programs ran out this summer, a new public relations firm was hired for the job.
The author runs the Brussels-based East-West news agency.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty