|Friday, 22 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 124, 97-09-24
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 124, 24 September 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRMEN IN BAKUMeeting with the three co-chairmen of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group in Baku on 23 September, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev said Azerbaijan accepts the plan proposed by the co- chairmen on 18 July as a basis for resolving the Karabakh conflict, Turan and Interfax reported. He argued that the two-month delay since then does not "promote our common purpose." He also expressed the hope that "important steps" toward resolving the Karabakh conflict will be taken before the end of this year. Turan quoted Russian co-chairman Yurii Yukalov and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov as saying Armenia has accepted a "phased resolution" of the conflict whereby a decision on the future status of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic will be postponed. The republic's leadership has rejected the peace plan and wants all aspects resolved simultaneously.
 AZERBAIJAN'S DEPUTY PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN IN TEHRANYashar Aliev met with Iranian President Mohammed Khatami in Tehran on 21 September, IRNA reported. The deputy speaker handed over a letter from Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev to Khatami, who described Azerbaijan as a "friendly, brotherly country". Khatami called for a negotiated settlement to the Karabakh conflict in the interests of regional stability and security. Yashar Aliev commented that bilateral relations are "gaining momentum." Those ties have been strained for more than a year following the arrest and sentencing for espionage of several members of the pro-Iranian Islamic Party of Azerbaijan.
 AZERBAIJAN, TURKMENISTAN TO DISCUSS CASPIAN DISPUTEHasan Hasanov told journalists on 23 September that legal and oil experts from Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan will meet in October to discuss dividing the Caspian into national sectors, ITAR-TASS reported. Hasanov told LUKoil President Vagif Alekperov in Baku two weeks earlier that Turkmenistan has agreed to an Azerbaijani proposal to divide the Kyapaz/Serdar oil field, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta." Both countries claim ownership of that field.
 AZERBAIJANI EARLY OIL COUNTDOWNVisiting Baku on 23 September, Transneft Vice President Oleg Gordeev assured the leadership of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR that work began that day on repairs to the Baku-Grozny-Novorossiisk pipeline through which Azerbaijan's "early" Caspian oil is to be exported, Russian and Azerbaijani agencies reported. Gordeev said the repairs will be completed within 22 days and that the first tanker-load of oil could leave Novorossiisk in December, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 24 September. Meanwhile, Russian First Deputy Premier Boris Nemtsov, who is also fuel and energy minister told Reuters that the alternative Baku- Novorossiisk pipeline bypassing Chechnya can be completed in nine months and that Russia will issue Eurobonds to meet the cost. "Trud" on 23 September reported, however, that Novorossiisk Mayor Valerii Prokhorenko categorically opposes construction of the alternative pipeline on ecological grounds.
 ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS CHAIRMAN OF KEY COMMITTEEThe National Assembly on 23 September elected Vigen Khachatryan as chairman of its State and Legal Affairs Committee, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Khachatryan is the leader of the small Liberal Democratic Party, one of the five members of the ruling Hanrapetutyun bloc. The committee's previous chairman, Eduard Yegoryan, was removed on 10 September after quitting the Hanrapetutyun bloc to form an opposition parliamentary faction. Khachatryan, who is also governor of Armenia's northern Lori province, vowed to continue Yegoryan's efforts to "form a basic legal framework in Armenia." The Armenian Pan-National Movement had originally claimed the right to nominate the committee's new chairman but reversed that decision on 20 August at the request of President Levon Ter-Petrossyan and parliamentary speaker Babken Ararktsyan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 1997).
 BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT IN KAZAKHSTANAlyaksandr Lukashenka, who is on a three-day official visit to Kazakhstan, met with his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev, on 23 September to discuss boosting bilateral trade. Compared with the same period last year, Belarusian-Kazakh trade was down 40 percent in the first half of 1997. Lukashenka said, however, that by year's end, trade figures would at least equal those for 1996. Agreements were signed on trade, air links, and protection for the rights of one country's citizens working in the other country. Belarus will also open an embassy in Kazakhstan. Lukashenka said he favored Nazarbayev to take over as head of the four-country customs union, which also includes Russia and Kyrgyzstan. The Belarusian president currently occupies that position.
 NAZARBAYEV SUPPORTS BELARUS ON ORT JOURNALISTNazarbayev gave his full support to Belarus's position in its dispute with Russia over Russian Public Television (ORT) reporter Pavel Sheremet, an RFE/RL correspondent in Almaty reported. Sheremet has been under arrest in Minsk since mid-July on charges of having violated the Belarusian- Lithuanian border. Interfax quotes Nazarbayev as saying each country has the "right to insist that its citizens implement the country's laws." He called on the media "to contribute to the rapprochement between peoples rather than sow discord between them or ignite tension between countries." Nazarbayev also criticized the fact that while Russian television channels are available in other CIS countries, no television programming from those countries is available in Russia. "The Russian people therefore only know one position," he added.
 JAPAN TO HELP BUILD TURKMEN RAIL LINEJapan's Itochu Corporation has agreed to help form a consortium to build a rail line running from the Kazakh city of Yeralievo to the Turkmen city of Turkmenbashi, on the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 September. Japanese experts are reviewing a feasibility study carried out by Russia's Mosgiprotrans. The 450-kilometer rail line may eventually be linked to Russian lines in the Urals and Siberia and to the Turkmen-Iran line.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 SERBIAN OPPOSITION MOVES TO RECALL DJINDIC OVER ELECTION BOYCOTTThe opposition Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) has launched procedures to recall Belgrade Mayor Zoran Djindjic. The SPO accuses Djindjic, who is head of the Democratic Party, of having advocated boycotting the 21 September parliamentary and presidential elections. Djindjic told BETA he will not resist the call to resign if a sufficient number of city council members demand his ouster. But he said the SPO's call for his replacement is an attack on the entire opposition Zajedno movement. The boycott was intended to invalidate the poll by reducing turnout to less than 50 percent. The Serbian Electoral Commission has said 62 percent of the electorate turned out. The Democratic Party, however, claims turnout was 49.12 percent. Final election results are due on 25 September.
 BOSNIAN SERBS CLASH WITH SFORThe NATO-led Stabilization Force clashed with several hundred Bosnian Serbs on roads leading to Doboj on 23 September. The protesters, opposed to increased SFOR patrols and check points, threw Molotov cocktails and stones at SFOR members. No injuries were reported. Also on 23 September, police loyal to Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic took control of the city of Prijedor, and SFOR erected checkpoints around Prnjavor, where pro-Plavsic forces took control two days earlier. RFE/RL's South Slavic service reports Doboj is now the westernmost town in the Republika Srpska controlled by the hard-line leadership in Pale.
 PALE TV SAYS SFOR, UNHCR CONNIVING WITH RETURNING REFUGEESPale TV on 23 September reported that Muslim refugees are returning to settle in the Doboj suburb of Makljenovac, contrary to what it called a "signed agreement." The television station also accused SFOR and UNHCR of conniving with the Muslims to repair some 150 houses during daylight hours. The Muslims spend the night across the inter-entity boundary line in Tesanj in the Muslim-Croatian Federation.
 CROATIA APPROVES TRANSIT OF TANKS FOR BOSNIAThe Croatian government on 23 September granted approval for a Ukrainian cargo ship to dock at Ploce and unload ten T-55 tanks, a gift from Egypt to the Bosnian Federation Army, RFE/RL's South Slavic service reported. Zagreb had blocked the shipment since early August arguing that documentation was lacking. Meanwhile, Croatian Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa said in Zagreb on 23 September during a visit by Turkish President Suleyman Demirel that Croatia and Turkey intend to open talks shortly on forming a free trade zone.
 ALBANIAN PROSECUTOR REDUCES CHARGES AGAINST GENOCIDE SUSPECTSThe Prosecutor-General's office has changed charges of genocide and crimes against humanity against six former senior communist officials to "abuse of office." The prosecutor-general dropped all charges against three other former officials, ATA reported on 23 September. The previous day, the Supreme Court opened a trial of all nine officials. The court is due to make a ruling on 29 September.
 FIRE RAVAGES COASTAL FORESTA forest fire that broke out on 22 September and burned itself out the following day destroyed thousands of pine trees in the woods overlooking the southern seaside resort of Saranda. ATA quotes forestry police as saying the blaze was set deliberately by citizens who want to construct buildings illegally in the area. The town's only fire engine was destroyed during the unrest earlier this year.
 ROMANIAN COALITION UNDER THREATBela Marko, the chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), said on 23 September said the UDMR's continued participation in the ruling coalition is doubtful, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He made the statement after the Senate's Commission on Education had for the third time changed the text of the law education (which has to be submitted to the parliament) and had reinstated the provision stipulating that history and geography are to be taught in the Romanian language. The ruling coalition leaders met later but were unable to reach a compromise. Marko said it is unacceptable for coalition representatives to break earlier agreements. The coalition leadership also decided that the issue of the education law is to be reexamined in consultations between the UDMR and the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic.
 ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ASKED TO SUBSTANTIATE SPY ALLEGATIONSAt a meeting of the Supreme Council of National Defense on 23 September, President Emil Constantinescu demanded that Adrian Severin substantiate his allegations that some heads of political parties and leading journalists are foreign agents (see "RFE/RL's Newsline," 23 September 1997), RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Severin said he has submitted and will continue to submit the evidence to the appropriate authorities, adding that his source of information was not the Romanian Intelligence Service (RIS). The RIS has denied receiving any such information. Premier Victor Ciorbea said Severin was "personally responsible" for the allegations, which, he said, do not represent the views of the government. Ciorbea said the matter will be discussed by the government when Severin returns from New York, where he is attending the session of the UN General Assembly. Democratic Party leader Petre Roman said that Severin's allegations do not reflect the position of the party and must be clarified by Severin himself. Severin is deputy leader of the Democrats.
 RUSSIAN DEPUTY PREMIER SAYS CHISINAU-TIRASPOL COMPROMISE REACHEDValerii Serov and Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov met with President Petru Lucinschi in Chisinau on 23 September. Serov said later that he succeeded in bringing about a compromise between the two sides, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Lucinschi told journalists that a protocol was signed providing for weekly meetings at which negotiations will continue. The meetings will be held at "presidential" level (meaning Lucinschi and Smirnov) as well as at government and expert levels. An agreement was also reached on drafting an economic treaty between Chisinau and Tiraspol. However, the fate of the assets of the Russian army stationed in the Transdniester remains unclear. Smirnov said this is a "Russian- Transdniestrian problem" and that he will oppose the "unilateral withdrawal of the arsenal."
 RUSSIA, MOLDOVA CONCLUDE AGREEMENTSSerov and his Moldovan counterpart, Valeriu Bulgari, signed an agreement providing for deliveries of Moldovan agricultural goods in exchange for Russian gas supplies. They also agreed to cooperate in military modernization and conversion technologies.
 BULGARIANS SHOW LITTLE INTEREST IN JOINING PROFESSIONAL ARMYChief of Staff General Miho Mihov told journalists in Sofia on 23 September that Bulgaria's effort to transform its army of conscripts into a professional one is encountering difficulties because of the low pay offered. A well-publicized campaign to hire 120 trainees in the use of high- technology military equipment has produced only five applications. The deadline has now been extended to 22 October. A military spokesman said applicants are offered a three-year contract and monthly wages ranging from 128,000 leva ($72) in the ground forces to 194,000 leva ($110) in the navy, Reuters reported.
[C] END NOTE
 NEW POLISH GOVERNMENT TO FACE URGENT ECONOMIC TASKSby Breffni O'Rourke and Chris Klimiuk
Finance experts say the new Polish government--whatever its eventual composition--will have some major problems to tackle quickly if it is to maintain the country's prosperity.
The right-of-center Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), which emerged with the strongest hand from the 21 September parliamentary elections, is expected to open contacts almost immediately with its most probable partners, the centrist Freedom Union and the rightist Movement for Renovation of Poland. The negotiations are likely to be difficult, as the parties have differing programs. In addition, some AWS leaders favor an even broader coalition that would include parties of a very different complexion.
According to financial specialists, there are two major priorities facing the new ruling coalition. The first and overriding task is to bring the rapidly-increasing current account deficit under control before it threatens the value of the zloty. The second is to make progress in the socially-explosive task of privatizing the inefficient state-owned heavy industries.
Bernd Klett, the Poland specialist at Deutsche Bank Research, told RFE/RL on 23 September that the current account last year registered a deficit of only about 1 percent of GDP, some $1.4 billion. In 1997, the deficit is set to reach almost 5.5 percent of GDP, or $7 billion. If present trends continue, it may reach a full 7 percent of GDP in 1998. Klett says this problem must be tackled quickly if the Polish economy is not to be exposed to major dangers.
Pavel Demczuk, senior analyst with Wood & Co investment advisers in Warsaw, agrees with Klett's analysis, saying the government has until about the end of this year to act. Both stress that the strong consumer demand among Poles must be dampened.
The Central Bank has already taken measures to achieve that goal, raising its interest rates several times in recent weeks and offering the public the opportunity to deposit money in accounts at an interest rate higher than that offered by commercial banks. That has had the effect of removing liquid money that might otherwise fuel consumer demand.
But experts say that is not enough. They believe the incoming government must also run a tight fiscal policy aimed at cutting demand for imported consumer goods, which has a negative impact on the trade balance.
Another priority of the new government must be to continue privatization, which has stalled in recent years as the authorities have shied away from the difficult task of tackling problem-industries such as coal mining.
The Freedom Union, which seems set to be an indispensable partner in any coalition, has a radical plan aimed at fully privatizing the economy by the year 2000. The head of the union is Leszek Balcerowicz, author of the postcommunist "shock therapy," which in no uncertain terms started the country along the road to free enterprise
In an interview with RFE/RL on September 23, Jerzy Osiatynski, the Freedom Union's senior economic adviser, said his party wants to see an end to public ownership of coal mining, ship building, and the steel industry. Given Poland's illustrious tradition of political activism among workers in those industries, a rigorous policy of privatization could result in a flash point for social unrest. Such a development would clearly not be in the interests of the new government.
Klett notes that the AWS has a more moderate policy on privatization. He believes that the Freedom Union will have to tone down its ambitious plans. Any move to restructure the heavy industries will have to be handled carefully and social security measures put in place for those who lose their jobs.
According to Klett, there are two routes to a market economy: through creating the right conditions for individuals to start their own business ventures and through privatization of existing state-owned enterprises. He says that all Polish post-communist governments have created a good climate for private enterprise and investment. And he notes that there has been progress toward privatization, although the process is far from complete.
Klett also notes that the coal mining industry will apparently have a future even after it has been restructured. He recalls that visiting EU experts expressed the opinion earlier this year that the Polish coal industry would be a viable business proposition after modernization.
Breffni O'Rourke is a senior RFE/RL correspondent. Chris Klimiuk is RFE/RL's Warsaw correspondent.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty