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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 139, 97-10-15

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 1, No. 139, 15 October 1997


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] CHECHEN VICE PRESIDENT IN BAKU
  • [02] THREE CIS PRESIDENTS SUPPORT BALTIC-BLACK SEA SUMMIT PROPOSAL
  • [03] UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CASTS DOUBT ON CIS'S FUTURE...
  • [04] ...MEETS WITH KAZAKH COUNTERPART
  • [05] STANDOFF IN SOUTHERN KAZAKHSTAN CONTINUES
  • [06] KAZAKH PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW CHIEF OF STATE OIL COMPANY
  • [07] KYRGYZ PRESIDENT WANTS MORE FOREIGN INVESTMENT
  • [08] UPDATE ON TURKMEN-IRANIAN OIL TALKS

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [09] CROATIAN, BOSNIAN TALKS DEADLOCKED
  • [10] MOSTAR CROATS REJECT ELECTION RESULTS
  • [11] U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY SAYS BOSNIAN SERBS STILL HAVE MILITARY EDGE
  • [12] RUSSIA TO SUSPEND GAS DELIVERIES TO YUGOSLAVIA?
  • [13] KOSOVO POLICE STATION ATTACKED
  • [14] ETHNIC ALBANIANS SENTENCED IN MACEDONIA
  • [15] SLOVENIAN PRESIDENT WELCOMES ELECTION TO UN SECURITY COUNCIL
  • [16] ALBANIAN AUTHORITIES PURGE DEMOCRATS...
  • [17] ...DROP CHARGES AGAINST FORMER COMMUNISTS
  • [18] ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT EXTENDS INVITATION TO FORMER LEADER
  • [19] ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ON TENSIONS IN COUNTRY
  • [20] ROMANIAN PREMIER MEETS PROTESTING 'REVOLUTIONARIES'
  • [21] TRADE UNIONISTS PROTEST IN BUCHAREST
  • [22] MOLDOVAN PREMIER IN MOSCOW
  • [23] MOLDOVAN DEFENSE MINISTER MEETS TRANSDNIESTER LEADER
  • [24] BULGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTER ON ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [25] LITHUANIA'S ECONOMY SLIGHTLY LAGS BEHIND BALTIC NEIGHBORS

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] CHECHEN VICE PRESIDENT IN BAKU

    During a week-long visit to Baku, Vakha Arsanov held talks with Prime Minister Artur Rasi-Zade and Deputy Premier Abbas Abbasov to discuss economic cooperation, in particular Azerbaijani assistance in restoring the Chechen oil, power-generating, and machine-building sectors, Turan and Russian agencies reported. Before departing for Tbilisi on 14 October, Arsanov met with President Heidar Aliev, who called for a peaceful solution to all conflicts in the Caucasus. Arsanov and Aliev also discussed the possibility of building an oil export pipeline from Grozny through Georgia to the Black Sea.

    [02] THREE CIS PRESIDENTS SUPPORT BALTIC-BLACK SEA SUMMIT PROPOSAL

    At meetings in Strasbourg on 10-11 October on the sidelines of the Council of Europe summit, Eduard Shevardnadze (Georgia), Heidar Aliev (Azerbaijan), and Petru Lucinschi (Moldova) affirmed their support for Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's proposal to convene a summit of Baltic and Black Sea leaders in Crimea in 1999. Kuchma made the proposal in Vilnius in early September at a meeting of Eastern and Central European leaders. In a statement released by the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry on 14 October, the four presidents called for greater cooperation among themselves in order to build a "stable and secure Europe." Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine created an informal alignment in late 1996 as a counterbalance to the CIS.

    [03] UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CASTS DOUBT ON CIS'S FUTURE...

    Meanwhile, Kuchma told journalists in Almaty, where he arrived on 14 October for an official visit, that the CIS "in its current form" has exhausted itself as an institution, ITAR-TASS reported. Kuchma was particularly critical of the customs union of four countries within the CIS, which, he said, is a serious obstacle to trade within the commonwealth as a whole.

    [04] ...MEETS WITH KAZAKH COUNTERPART

    Also on 14 October, Leonid Kuchma met with his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev, Russian agencies reported. At a joint press conference, Nazarbayev characterized bilateral relations as "amicable" and affirmed that the two countries have the same views on all global problems, according to Interfax. He also said that Kazakhstan will consider any option for exporting its oil, including via Ukraine. The two presidents signed a declaration on bilateral cooperation, and five inter-governmental agreements were signed, including one designating an area of Kazakhstan in which parts of Ukraine's Zenit rockets will fall back to earth. Several Kazakh Senate members, including Engels Gabbasov, protested that accord at a meeting with Kuchma on 15 October, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. Gabbasov said he opposes allowing Ukraine or any other CIS state to use Kazakh territory for military experiments.

    [05] STANDOFF IN SOUTHERN KAZAKHSTAN CONTINUES

    The 2,000 Achisay Polymetal plant workers prevented by police from continuing their protest march to Almaty have refused an offer by the governor of Southern Kazakhstan Oblast to pay some of the wage arrears they are demanding, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 15 October. The protesters continue to hold out for full payment of back wages totaling 100 million tenges (some $1.35 million). They warn they will seek the ouster of President Nazarbayev if their demands are not met by 16 October. The plant's administration has begun paying wage arrears from January and February to staff members not taking part in the protest march.

    [06] KAZAKH PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW CHIEF OF STATE OIL COMPANY

    Nazarbayev on 14 October issued a decree naming Baltabek Quandiqov, the director of the Kazakhstan Kaspishelf Consortium, as president of Kazakhoil, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. Observers had predicted that Nazarbayev's son-in-law Timur Kuligov, who is deputy head of Kazakhoil, would be promoted to that position following the 10 October appointment of the company's former director, Nurlan Balgimbaev, as prime minister. Also on 14 October, Grigorii Marchenko, an economist tasked with creating a national stock market, resigned because of delays in launching the market, Reuters reported.

    [07] KYRGYZ PRESIDENT WANTS MORE FOREIGN INVESTMENT

    Addressing the opening session of the parliament on 14 October, Askar Akaev said attracting private investment is one of the government's top priorities over the next three years, ITAR-TASS reported. Increased investment is one of the main pillars of the 1998-2000 economic stabilization program to be drawn up by the government and the IMF. Akaev noted that GDP grew by 19.2 percent over the first nine months of this year and exports by 10 percent. At the same time, he noted that trade with other CIS states has fallen by 20 percent. He warned that the government will cease privileged subsidies to large and medium-sized enterprises in 1998. More than 50 percent of all the country's enterprises are either idle or unprofitable.

    [08] UPDATE ON TURKMEN-IRANIAN OIL TALKS

    Speaking at a press conference in Ashgabat on 14 October at the end of Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi's two-day visit, Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov said Turkmenistan will not offer for tender oil and gas deposits located on the border between the two countries' sectors of the Caspian, Interfax reported. Shikhmuradov said Ashgabat and Tehran will jointly exploit those deposits with the possible participation of foreign companies. The two foreign ministers also affirmed their support for the creation of a coalition government in Afghanistan in which all warring factions would be represented, ITAR-TASS reported.

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [09] CROATIAN, BOSNIAN TALKS DEADLOCKED

    Croatian and Bosnian negotiators failed on 14 October in Zagreb to reach an agreement on Bosnia's use of Croatia's Adriatic port of Ploce. Croatia rejected a U.S. proposal for Bosnia to have a long-term free-trade zone in the port, which is Bosnia's natural outlet to the sea. The issue has bedeviled relations between Zagreb and Sarajevo for several years. Croatian authorities fear that Bosnia may seek to annex Ploce, which Croatian politicians cannot accept. The Bosnian authorities, for their part, will not cede transit rights to Croatia through Bosnia's coastal fishing village of Neum, which bisects Dalmatia, without concessions by Zagreb over Ploce.

    [10] MOSTAR CROATS REJECT ELECTION RESULTS

    A spokesman for the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) said in Mostar on 14 October that his party does not accept the results of the September local elections. The spokesman said it is "absurd" that the HDZ received a majority of the total votes cast but won only a minority of the seats on the city council. Officials from the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which supervised the vote, have promised a recount. But U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia Richard Kauzlarich said in Mostar that he does not expect the recount to produce different results from the first tally, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Mostar. Meanwhile in Split, "Feral Tribune" on 13 October published what it called new evidence that Croatian President Franjo Tudjman agreed with the Belgrade leadership in 1991 to partition Bosnia.

    [11] U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY SAYS BOSNIAN SERBS STILL HAVE MILITARY EDGE

    James Pardew told Worldnet Television in Washington on 14 October that the Bosnian Serb army (VRS) remains stronger than the Bosnian Federation's military, despite Washington's "Equip and Train" program to aid the latter. Pardew denied charges made in the former Yugoslavia and in some Western media that the U.S. program has tipped the balance in favor of the Muslims and Croats. He charged that the VRS remains superior to its rivals because it is "just an extension" of the Yugoslav military, on which it can call for assistance at any time.

    [12] RUSSIA TO SUSPEND GAS DELIVERIES TO YUGOSLAVIA?

    Officials of the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom said in Moscow on 14 October that they may suspend deliveries to Yugoslavia if that country does not pay at least part of its $250 million debt to Gazprom, Belgrade media reported. Observers noted that the suspension of gas deliveries would coincide with the onset of winter. Meanwhile, Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic and Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic held talks in Moscow with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, but no details of the discussions have been released to the press.

    [13] KOSOVO POLICE STATION ATTACKED

    The Serbian Interior Ministry on 14 October announced that "Albanian separatists mounted an armed terrorist attack" with automatic rifles and grenades on a police station near Pec, in Kosovo. Property was damaged but no one injured. This is the third attack on that station this year and one of many armed assaults since January on Serbian government buildings in various localities across Kosovo. The Kosovo Liberation Army has claimed responsibility for most of the incidents.

    [14] ETHNIC ALBANIANS SENTENCED IN MACEDONIA

    A local court in Tetovo on 14 October sentenced both Mayor Alajdin Demiri and City Council President Vehbi Bexheti to two-and-a-half years in prison. The court ruled they had violated a Constitutional Court order in July by refusing to remove an Albanian flag from the city hall. The Constitutional Court had earlier ruled that only the Macedonian flag could be flown from public buildings under most circumstances. In September, ethnic Albanian officials in Gostivar were sentenced on similar charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 1997). Ethnic Albanians make up about 20 percent of the total population of Macedonia but form a compact majority in the western part of the country.

    [15] SLOVENIAN PRESIDENT WELCOMES ELECTION TO UN SECURITY COUNCIL

    Milan Kucan said in Ljubljana on 15 October that his country's election the previous day to a seat on the UN's most important body is a form of international recognition for what he called Slovenia's achievements in world affairs. Kucan added that his country now has both an opportunity to present its views to the world and a responsibility for international crisis spots. In the 14 October vote in New York, Slovenia beat out Macedonia for the non-permanent seat held by a country from Eastern Europe.

    [16] ALBANIAN AUTHORITIES PURGE DEMOCRATS...

    The Democratic Party on 13 October issued a declaration condemning the sacking of university rectors and their alleged replacement by Socialist Party loyalists, "Rilindja Demokratike" reported. The Democrats claim that Prime Minister Fatos Nano himself fired the rectors in violation of the principle of university autonomy. It is unclear how many of Albania's seven rectors are affected by the apparent purge. At the National Opera and Ballet, Director Agron Xoxe began a hunger strike on 15 October to protest his dismissal, which, he says, is politically motivated. At the State Control Commission, 41 commission members were dismissed on 13 October. Meanwhile, "Rilindja Demokratike" reported that the Prosecutor-General's Office has launched proceedings against some 300 people involved in recent anti-government protests.

    [17] ...DROP CHARGES AGAINST FORMER COMMUNISTS

    Prosecutor-General Shkelqim Gani on 14 October dropped charges against communist-era President Ramiz Alia, former Interior Ministers Hekuran Isai and Simon Stefani, and former Prosecutor-General Qemal Lame. The previous Democratic government had charged the four with genocide and crimes against humanity in connection with the persecution and killing of dissidents who tried to flee the country illegally. Gani said he based his decision on a recent Supreme Court verdict pardoning all other 32 senior ex-Communists whom the Democrats had sentenced on the same charges. The Court ruled that the ex-Communists cannot be sentenced on such charges because their actions were not criminal under the law in force at the time.

    [18] ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT EXTENDS INVITATION TO FORMER LEADER

    Former President Sali Berisha on 14 October accepted an invitation from Nano to participate in the international aid donors' conference on Albania, scheduled to take place in Rome on 17 October. Observers said Nano extended the invitation to help offset the bad impression the government made in September when President Rexhep Meidani refused to let Berisha on the plane carrying Meidani and Italian leaders to the funeral of Mother Teresa in Calcutta.

    [19] ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ON TENSIONS IN COUNTRY

    President Emil Constantinescu, in an 14 October address on nationwide radio, urged the country to overcome "misunderstandings, confusion, and unnecessary tensions," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Constantinescu said Foreign Minister Adrian Severin would have to resign if his allegations on foreign agents in political parties and the media proved inaccurate. Constantinescu also referred to the ongoing hunger strike of " 1989 revolutionaries," who are protesting the government's intention to amend the law granting them various privileges. Constantinescu, who met with the protesters on 13 October, said their situation is critical and must be tackled "with maximum seriousness." He said society is indebted to the protesters and must honor their past deeds as well as help them out of their difficult economic situation.

    [20] ROMANIAN PREMIER MEETS PROTESTING 'REVOLUTIONARIES'

    Following Constantinescu's appeal, Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea met with the protesters, Radio Bucharest reported. A spokesman for the "revolutionaries" said Ciorbea had pledged to withdraw the amendment to the law submitted earlier that day to the Chamber of Deputies. Dan Iosif, a counselor to former President Ion Iliescu and a leader of the protesters, said the protesters will end their strike only if they receive assurances that a joint commission of representatives of the "revolutionaries" and the government will examine the case of each "revolutionary" to verify that he qualifies for the privileges. Four protesters have so far been hospitalized during the nine-day hunger strike.

    [21] TRADE UNIONISTS PROTEST IN BUCHAREST

    Several thousand members of the Alfa trade union confederation marched in Bucharest on 14 October to protest declining living standards. Former President Iliescu and other leaders of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania joined the protest. Union leader Bogdan Hossu told Vlad Rosca, chief of the government's office for relations with the unions, that the government must take immediate measures for social protection. He said the unionists are "fed up with theoretical discussions" and with the incompetence of some ministers. Hossu handed Rosca a long list of demands, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported.

    [22] MOLDOVAN PREMIER IN MOSCOW

    Ion Ciubuc met with his Russian counterpart, Viktor Chernomyrdin, in Moscow on 14 October to discuss the 22-23 October CIS summit in Chisinau and bilateral economic relations, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported, citing an official government press release. Meanwhile, opposition leaders accused President Petru Lucinschi of attempting to make Moldova politically and economically subservient to Russia. Former President Mircea Snegur said the holding of the CIS summit in Chisinau is proof of Lucinschi's goal. Iurie Rosca, the leader of the Christian Democratic Popular Front, said the Chisinau CIS summit and the CIS security heads' recent meeting in the Moldovan capital show Lucinschi is trying to bring about the country's " incorporation into a Russian-dominated economic, political, military, and informational sphere."

    [23] MOLDOVAN DEFENSE MINISTER MEETS TRANSDNIESTER LEADER

    Valeriu Pasat on 14 October met in Tiraspol with Igor Smirnov, the leader of the breakaway Transdniester region, ITAR-TASS reported. The two leaders discussed confidence-building measures in the security zone separating the two sides' troops. According to the news agency, the talks concentrated on the agreement mediated by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov during his September visit to Moldova, whereby the security zone set up in 1992 would be reduced in size. ITAR-TASS noted this would do away with the need to bring Ukrainian peacekeepers to the security zone, despite the accord with Kyiv on the presence of those troops.

    [24] BULGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTER ON ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION

    Bogomil Bonev told RFE/RL on 14 October that his country has developed a strategy for combating illegal immigration. Bonev, who is attending the international conference in Prague on illegal immigration, said Bulgaria has already implemented the recommendations of earlier meetings of European interior ministers on the issue. He said Sofia has harmonized the country's legislation with that of other states and introduced visa restrictions for nationals of countries considered to be sources of illegal immigration. Bonev expressed the hope that the Czech Republic will not take "hasty measures" to introduce visa restrictions for Bulgarian citizens. This was a reaction to Czech Interior Minister Jan Ruml's earlier statement that his country is considering introducing restrictions for citizens of some East European states.

    [C] END NOTE

    [25] LITHUANIA'S ECONOMY SLIGHTLY LAGS BEHIND BALTIC NEIGHBORS

    by Michael Wyzan The European Commission's decision to recommend that Estonia, rather than Latvia or Lithuania, be among those countries invited to begin EU accession negotiations has been criticized by Lithuanian officials, who claim the decision was based on outdated data. While Lithuania's economy is in some respects lagging behind those of the other two Baltic States, Vilnius is beginning to close the gap, especially with Latvia.

    At the end of 1996, Lithuania's economy was growing faster than Latvia's, its inflation was almost identical to Latvia's (and below Estonia's), and its unemployment rate lay between those of its two Baltic neighbors. However, it remained poorer and more dependent on trade with the CIS. And it also had a substantial budget deficit (about 3 percent of gross domestic product), while Estonia had a tiny surplus and Latvia only a small deficit.

    In 1996, Lithuania's GDP grew by 3.6 percent, compared with 4.3 percent in Estonia and 2.3 percent in Latvia. Consumer prices rose by 13.1 percent from December 1995 through December 1996; the equivalent figures were 15 percent in Estonia and 13.2 percent in Latvia. Unemployment in Lithuania in December 1996 was 6.2 percent, compared with 4.1 percent in Estonia and 7.2 percent in Latvia. In the same month, Lithuania had an average monthly wage of $173, Estonia $260, and Latvia $242.

    In 1996, 40.5 percent of Lithuania's imports came from the EU and 36.2 percent from the CIS; the equivalent figures for exports were 33.4 percent and 45 percent. By contrast, only 17.5 percent of Estonia's imports in 1996 originated in the CIS, while 25.2 percent of its exports went there. Lithuania received only $41 in cumulative foreign direct investment per capita from 1989 to 1996, compared with $516 in Estonia and $310 in Latvia.

    There has been little change in the countries' performance so far this year. During the first quarter of 1997, Lithuanian GDP was 2.4 percent above the level in the same period of1996--similar to Latvia's growth rate, but well below Estonia's. Lithuanian inflation in the 12 months to August 1997 was 8.7 percent, compared with10.8 percent in Estonia and 8.6 percent in Latvia.

    The most recent unemployment figures available are 5.4 percent in Lithuania and 7.3 percent in Latvia in August and 4.7 percent in Estonia in July. The average monthly gross wage in July was $215 in Lithuania, $250 in Estonia, and $230 in Latvia.

    Lithuania shares with Estonia large and growing trade and current account deficits. In the first quarter of 1997, Lithuania had a $232 million current account deficit, compared with $134 million during the same period in 1996. Through the first two quarters, the trade deficit was $825 million, whereas it was $500 million during the first half of 1996.

    One way to assess a country's economic development is to examine the foreign reserves of the central bank: if those funds are rising, inflows elsewhere in the balance of payments are more than making up for unbalanced current transactions. At the end of August, the Bank of Lithuania's reserves (including gold) were at a post-independence high: $1.09 billion, or the equivalent of three months of imports. Estonia has also experienced foreign-reserve growth this year, despite an even faster increase in its current account deficit.

    The growing current account imbalance is one of the main reasons why the Lithuanian government has decided to jettison its currency board and fixed exchange rate. IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus, visiting Vilnius on 3 October for the Bank of Lithuania's 75th anniversary celebration, described the board as a "useful straight jacket" and called for tight monetary policy once a more flexible regime is in place.

    If economic performance does not markedly distinguish Lithuania from Estonia, what about progress on structural reform? In assessing Lithuania's merits as a potential candidate for EU membership, the European Commission stressed poor financial discipline at enterprises, a backward agricultural sector, and a weak banking system. It also cited the need for further progress on price liberalization, large-scale privatization, enterprise restructuring, and bankruptcy proceedings.

    The government, for its part, stresses that privatization of all but the biggest enterprises is complete and that the financial system weathered the banking crisis in mid-1995.

    As a report card on the areas in need of further improvement in Lithuanian economic policy, the European Commission's assessment is useful. Less convincing, however, is its argument that Estonia is so far ahead of Lithuania (and Latvia) in those areas that the EU should begin negotiations only with the former.

    The author is a research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria.

    15-10-97


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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