|Saturday, 7 December 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 126, 97-09-26
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 126, 26 September 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 EXPLOSION AT TAJIK NEWS AGENCYA bomb went off in on the second floor of the building that houses the Tajik state news agency, Khovar, on 25 September, RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe reported. Several people sustained minor injuries, and there was large damage to the first two floors of the building. It is suspected that the blast is the work of groups within the country opposed to the peace process there. The headquarters of the National Reconciliation Commission and the Pakistani Embassy are located near Khovar's office.
 ARMENIAN OPPOSITION LEADER VOWS "MASS RESISTANCE."National Democratic Union (AZhM) leader Vazgen Manukyan on 25 September announced the beginning of a "mass resistance movement" that will seek to change the country's leadership, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Manukyan called for the creation of "strong structures" at grass-roots level to exert constant pressure on the authorities to hold free and fair elections and improve living conditions. He said the new AZhM-led movement will be open to other political parties, labor unions, and NGOs. He added that his party is ready to engage in a dialogue with the authorities on improving Armenia's electoral system. Manukyan was addressing an estimated 15,000 supporters in Yerevan on the first anniversary of the storming of parliament following the disputed 1996 presidential elections.
 ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES NUCLEAR SAFETY CONVENTIONThe National Assembly on 24 September ratified the Convention on Nuclear Safety, aimed at ensuring the safe use of nuclear power and prevention of nuclear catastrophes, Noyan Tapan reported. Energy Minister Gagik Martirossian told deputies that the 1998 budget earmarks $2 million for improving the safety system at the Medzamor nuclear power station. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov recently called for the closure of Medzamor, claiming that it failed to meet world safety standards.
 GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS WARNED AGAINST PROTEST MARCHGeneral Dolya Babenkov, the commander of the CIS peacekeeping forces in western Georgia, has warned Georgians forced to flee Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 war not to proceed with a protest planned for 27 September, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. The Georgian displaced persons intend to cross the Inguri bridge separating Abkhazia from the rest of Georgia and stage a march through Abkhazia's southern-most Gali Raion, where many of them previously lived. Babenkov has requested the assistance of the UN observer mission in Georgia to prevent the planned protest from taking place. The Georgian government has designated 27 September--the anniversary of the capture of Sukhumi in 1993 by Abkhaz forces--a day of mourning.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 BOSNIAN SERB WAR CRIMINAL SENTENCED IN GERMANYA Dusseldorf court on 26 September sentenced Bosnian Serb extremist Nikola Jorgic to life imprisonment for committing genocide, murder, kidnapping, and assault in the former Yugoslavia. The trial was held in Germany at the request of the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. The court found Jorgic, 50, responsible for two massacres in the Bosnian villages of Grapska and Sevarlije, where 29 Bosnian Muslims were found slaughtered in 1992. He was convicted on 11 counts of genocide and 30 counts of murder. Jorgic, who lived in Germany for 23 years, was arrested at Dusseldorf airport in 1995 upon returning from Bosnia. He has dismissed the charges as "lies" and claims to be the victim of mistaken identity.
 ZUBAK COMPLAINS ABOUT UPCOMING BOSNIAN SERB ELECTIONSKresimir Zubak, the Bosnian Croat member of Bosnia's tripartite presidency, filed a written complaint on 25 September with the international community's high representative, Carlos Westendorp, on the upcoming elections in the Republika Srpska. The previous day, Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic and Momcilo Krajisnik, the Muslim member of the Bosnian presidency, recently reached an agreement with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on early parliamentary elections and on a vote for both Plavsic's and Krajisnik's posts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 1997). Zubak said that elections in the republic can be organized only by all-Bosnian agencies, not on the basis of an agreement between officials in one of the two entities.
 FINAL RESULTS OF SERBIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONSAccording to the final results of the first round of the 21 September presidential elections, Zoran Lilic, Socialist candidate and ally of Yugoslav President Milosevic, won 35.7 percent of the vote. Ultra- nationalist Vojislav Seselj received 27.28 percent and opposition leader Vuk Draskovic 20.64 %. Lilic will face Seselj in a run-off on 5 October.
 SERBIAN POLICE DISRUPT PRISTINA PROMENADESerbian police, in an apparent bid to put stop to the traditional evening promenade of ethnic Albanians on the main street of the Kosovar capital, directed vehicles to drive down the main street, despite an evening ban on traffic. Numerous young people, nevertheless, continued to congregate on the sidewalks, the Kosovo Information Center reported on 25 September. Uniformed and plainclothes police harassed and beat at least two students. Meanwhile, some 300 Serbian police, backed by armored personnel carriers and helicopters, harassed dozens of ethnic Albanians in four villages in central Kosovo on 23-24 September. Several villagers were beaten. The action followed reports of an alleged attack on a police patrol near Glina.
 SLOVENIA NAMES NEW FOREIGN MINISTERThe parliament in an extraordinary session on 25 September appointed Boris Frlec, currently ambassador in Bonn, as foreign minister, RFE/RL's South Slavic service reported. Frlec says he sees Slovenia's foreign policy priorities as improving ties with its neighbors and joining the EU. Frlec is a member of Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek's Liberal Democratic Party. He is Slovenia's seventh foreign minister since Ljubljana declared independence in June 1991.
 ALBANIAN POLICE OPEN CRIMINAL CASES IN SARANDACriminal police in the southern seaside resort have launched criminal proceedings against 40 Albanians accused of murder, rape, robbery, and kidnapping during unrest earlier this year, ATA reported on 25 September. So far, only six alleged perpetrators are in custody. The prosecutor's office and the courts have yet to join in the crackdown. Meanwhile, Italian police returned 119 Albanians lacking documents to the Albanian port of Durres on 24-25 September. Half of those sent back were young women detained for alleged prostitution. In September alone, Italy has deported some 2,500 Albanians to Durres.
 ALBANIA ASKS SKOPJE NOT TO SHOOT ITS CITIZENS ON BORDERAlbanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo asked his Macedonian counterpart, Blagoi Handziski, during talks in New York on 24 September to help ensure that Albanian citizens are not shot when trying to cross the border illegally. He said the border crossing at Bllata, closed due to unrest earlier this year, should be reopened. The two ministers agreed on holding negotiations at expert level to continue work bilateral agreements of an economic nature and on the free movement of citizens. Milo also expressed his government's concern over problems facing Macedonia's ethnic Albanian population
 ROMANIAN COALITION TACKLES CONTROVERSIAL LEGISLATIONA joint commission of representatives of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) on 25 September agreed to draw up a "mutually acceptable" version of the amended education law. The commission was created the previous day. PNTCD chairman Ion Diaconescu said the commission's decisions will be binding on all coalition members, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Diaconescu said that if Senate Education Commission chairman George Pruteanu continues to stick to his position on the law, he will have to "face the consequences." UDMR chairman Bela Marko said several PNTCD representatives have displayed extreme nationalist positions similar to those of the opposition. The commission will also examine the amended Law on Public Administration, which allows bilingual street signs, and the draft law on the national minorities.
 ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT PROMOTES WOMEN'S REPRESENTATIONThe Chamber of Deputies on 25 September adopted an amendment to the law on political parties aimed at promoting representation of women in the legislature. The amendment stipulates that subsidies for each party will be increased proportional to the number of its women members of the parliament. The amended law will go into effect if the entire text of the law is adopted by the chamber and subsequently approved by the Senate. Also on 25 September, Foreign Minister Adrian Severin met with his Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, in New York. They agreed that in October, the two sides will resume at the level of expert the talks on a bilateral basic treaty.
 RUSSIA, UKRAINE DISCUSS TRANSDNIESTR REGIONRussian Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov and his Ukrainian counterpart, Boris Gudyma, met in Moscow on 25 September to discuss how to advance the dialogue between Chisinau and Tiraspol, ITAR-TASS reported. The Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that Russia and Ukraine fundamentally agree on how to settle the conflict between the breakaway Transdniestr region and Moldova. The statement said that Moscow and Kyiv believe in "granting a special status to the region on condition of observing the principle of the territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova."
 RUSSIAN DEPUTY PREMIER ON FATE OF WEAPONS IN TRANSDNIESTERIn an interview with Interfax on 25 September, Valerii Serov said that during his recent visit to Chisinau and Tiraspol, it was agreed to destroy or sell that part of the Russian arsenal that will not be wihdrawn from the Transdniester region. He rejected the Transdniestrian claim to ownership of the assets but said that "proceeds from sales to third countries will be divided among the three [Russian, Moldovan, and Transdniestrian] sides." He added this would "compensate" Tiraspol for the stationing of Russian troops in the region. He also said it was "important that the weapons not be taken over by the Transdniestrians or the Moldovans or be...purchased by dubious commercial organizations."
 BULGARIAN-RUSSIAN RELATIONS TENSEInterior Minister Bogomil Bonev on 25 September accused Russia of trying to blackmail Bulgaria with threats to cut off natural gas supplies unless it pays what he suggested are unfair high prices. Bonev said Russia must overcome its "imperial attitude" toward Sofia. Other Bulgarian officials noted that the Russian company Gazprom wants to charge prices higher than those for deliveries to other European countries, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. Also on 25 September, AFP reported that Russia has filed an official protest for having been omitted from a list of countries invited to attend a security meeting in Sofia on 3 October. NATO and Partnership for Peace countries are to attend the meeting.
[C] END NOTE
 ROMANIA POLISHES GLOBAL IMAGEby Robert Lyle At the annual meeting of the World Bank and IMF in Hong Kong, Romania has made a bid to improve its image in the global financial community. Taking the opportunity offered by seminar sponsored by those two economic institutions, officials from Bucharest told global investors that the country now has its basic finances in order and will be forging ahead with a revised and improved privatization program.
Romanian National Bank Governor Mugur Isarescu told the seminar that while the country has been "lagging behind" the rest of the region in shifting to a market economy (private business accounted for just 52 percent of the national economy in 1996), it is now rapidly catching up. The private sector should account for at least two-thirds of Romanian gross domestic product by next year. Similarly, while Romania has been slow in drawing foreign direct investment--it totaled around $624 million dollars in 1996, according to the UN World Investment Report -- Isarescu says that he expects it to jump to $1 billion by the end of this year.
The country has set up a new privatization program, reorganized and redrawn by the State Ownership Fund. The fund's director, Adriana Miron, told the seminar that the organization is taking a market-oriented approach, valuing enterprises at their market value rather than at book value, and then offering the "largest and most attractive" first. The shift from book to market value makes a critical difference in the program. Some firms will sell for a lot more than book value because they have attractive futures. Older, worn-out heavy industry firms, which were costly to build but have little value on today's market, will be priced far lower.
Miron said authorities learned many lessons from the first program, which managed to privatize only 3,000 enterprises--mostly small and medium-sized-- in three years. She points out they privatized another 1,300 at the end of August and expect to have the total privatized to nearly 5,000 by the end of this year. "Our goal is to privatize 50 companies each week," she said.
Miron said the first response to the changes has been very encouraging. The fund has begun to run advertisements in international finance and business publications about some of its first major offerings and is already receiving a large number of inquiries.
Isarescu says that state-owned banks will to be among the firms privatized. Of the five major state banks, which currently control 70 percent of the banking sector in Romania, three are being prepared for privatization. He said he expects at least two to been sold off by the middle of next year. The rest of the banking sector in Romania is filled by around 30 licensed banks and 15 foreign banks. Isarescu says the central bank and the government are reviewing what further reforms might be needed for the country's banking system, including a commercial banking supervisory agency similar to those in Western nations.
A private investment banker, Antonius van der Heijden, head of the Dutch ING Barings bank operation in Romania, told the seminar that for the first time since the end of Nicolae Ceausescu's regime, Bucharest seems headed in the right direction. "There is a good team in the government and they are doing a good job," he said. For the first time, there is a "totally changed perception of Romania." The country could be the "next European tiger," he said.
The owner of a Canadian textile company which has had joint ventures in Romania since 1965, J. A. Seroussi, echoed Van der Heijden's endorsement. He said while nothing is ever perfect, he is more optimistic now than he has ever been about investing in Romania.
Former World Bank treasurer Donald Roth, managing partner of a European investment group, acted as moderator at the seminar. He said there is no question that Romania is at "a crossroads." Which path it follows into the future depends on Bucharest's making good choices now, he added.
The author is a Washington-based RFE/RL correspondent.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty