|Wednesday, 20 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 162, 97-11-18
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 162, 18 November 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 RUSSIA REJECTS GEORGIAN CRITICISM OVER ABKHAZIARussian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 17 November rejected as "unfounded" Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's criticism of Chernomyrdin's recent decree allowing the export to Russia of agricultural produce from Abkhazia. Shevardnadze charged that the measure creates "hot- house conditions" for Abkhaz separatists and is aimed at bolstering the dwindling authority of the CIS. Russian government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov denied that Russian imports of agricultural produce from Abkhazia violate previous Georgian-Russian agreements on resolving the Abkhaz conflict. Speaking in Tbilisi on 17 November, Georgian First Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Ukleba reaffirmed that Georgia will not lift economic sanctions on Abkhazia until a political settlement of the conflict has been reached and ethnic Georgian displaced persons allowed to return to their homes in Abkhazia's Gali Raion, Caucasus Press reported. LF
 ARMENIA WANTS COOPERATION WITH TURKEY ON NUCLEAR SAFETYArmenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparian on 17 November reaffirmed Armenia's commitment to both the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency on the safe functioning of the Medzamor nuclear power station. Gasparian said Yerevan is ready "to reasonably address Turkey's concerns about the safety of our WWER-type reactor." He proposed confidence-building measures, including the regular exchange of information with Turkey. Ankara has claimed that leaks of radio-activity from Medzamor have affected areas of northeastern Turkey. In September, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov charged that Medzamor is unsafe and can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons. Armenia has denied both those charges. LF
 ARMENIA RELUCTANT TO BAN LAND MINESGasparian also said on 17 November that while Yerevan welcomes international efforts to ban the production and use of anti-personnel land mines, it will not accede to the international convention banning such weapons unless other states in the region do so. At the same time, Gasparian expressed concern at Azerbaijan's refusal to join the convention. He noted that some 6,000-8,000 land mines are concentrated along the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier. There are also heavily mined areas on the former front line between Karabakh Armenian and Azerbaijani forces. The draft peace proposal drawn up by the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe Karabakh requires Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan to cooperate in clearing those areas in order to allow the deployment of OSCE peacekeeping forces. LF
 KARABAKH PREMIER ON SETTLEMENT TIMETABLELeonid Petrossian has hinted that Nagorno-Karabakh may drop its insistence on a "package" rather than a "phased" solution to the conflict. Speaking on 17 November, he suggested that if the latter option is chosen, Karabakh's status vis-a-vis the central Azerbaijani government should be decided first, Noyan Tapan reported. Petrossian said the second stage should involve "determining borders" and the third the withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied Azerbaijani territory. Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gasparian said on 17 November that Yerevan will use its right of veto if Azerbaijan pushes for adopting a document that reaffirms Baku's sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh at the December meeting of OSCE foreign ministers, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF
 ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT POSTPONES DEBATE ON ELECTION LAWThe parliament has voted to postpone discussion of two draft election laws until February 1998, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 17 November. The opposition Hayrenik faction called for the issue to be included on the fall session's agenda. It opposes the draft law prepared by the ruling Hanrapetutyun coalition, which it says provides for the appointment rather than the election of deputies. Hayrenik leader Eduard Yegoryan has prepared an alternative draft. Adoption of a new election law is a precondition for Armenia's admission to full membership in the Council of Europe. LF
 KAZAKH PRESIDENT IN U.S.Nursultan Nazarbayev held talks with US officials in Washington on 17 November, according to RFE/RL correspondents in the U.S. capital. Nazarbayev met with U.S Vice President Al Gore, with whom he later attended the opening of the fourth session of the Kazakh-U.S. joint economic commission. Gore stressed the need for multiple pipelines to bring Kazakh oil and gas to markets both in the West and East. While Gore avoided mentioning Iran, Nazarbayev said later at a Pentagon news conference with U. S. Defense Secretary William Cohen that if a pipeline were to run through either Iran or Iraq, "I will have to talk about security." BP
 KYRGYZ PRESIDENT SAYS RUSSIAN BROADCAST "PLANNED"Askar Akayev has said the recent broadcasts by Russian television stations of footage showing a Kyrgyz children's home were "planned" to coincide with the 13 November visit of U.S. First Lady Hillary Clinton (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 1997), ITAR-TASS reported. He complained that the footage inaccurately portrayed Kyrgyzstan as a country where "children die because of the absence of medicines and food." He added that "no one explained this was a children's home where there were sick children." Kyrgyzstan has sent official protests to both the Russian government and the Russian television stations that ran the footage. BP
 KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER RETURNS TO BISHKEKTopchubek Turgunaliev, the chairman of Kyrgyzstan's opposition Erkin Kyrgyzstan Party, has been moved from a prison in Leilik to the capital, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported on 17 November. Earlier this year, Turgunaliev was found guilty of abuse of power while dean of the Bishkek University of Humanities in 1994. Turgunaliev will serve the remainder of his four-year sentence in a Bishkek detention center. BP
 TAJIK OPPOSITION SOON TO RECEIVE GOVERNMENT POSTS?Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri have met to discuss which government posts the UTO will receive, RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe reported on 17 November. Under the terms of the peace agreement, the UTO is to have 30 percent of government portfolios, but it remains unclear which ones it will receive. Tajik presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov is quoted by Reuters and Interfax as saying one of the government power ministries will be handed over to the UTO. According to RFE/RL correspondents, the UTO may instead receive the Ministry for Emergency Situations. Saidov also said the government reshuffle should take place within the next week. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 PALE SERBS REMAIN DEFIANTThe hard-line Bosnian Serb parliament on 17 November voted to condemn the behavior of NATO peacekeepers, whom the resolution said are acting "almost like an occupation force." The parliament also charged that the international community is trying to revise the Dayton peace agreement so as to limit the independence of the Republika Srpska. The legislature passed a package of 18 laws, which President Biljana Plavsic has said she will not sign. Plavsic declared the parliament dissolved in the summer and refuses to recognize its activities. PM
 BOMB DESTROYS JOURNALIST'S CARA bomb demolished the car of Goran Matrak, the editor of the hard-line daily "Glas Srpski," in Banja Luka on 17 November. A bomb went off in another car belonging to Matrak last month. Meanwhile in Pale, Radio Sveti Jovan, which belongs to the daughter of Radovan Karadzic, resumed broadcasting on 17 November after an unexplained break of 24 hours. PM
 BOSNIAN SERB ARMY LINKED TO BELGRADE, MOSCOWBosnian Serb army (VRS) chief-of-staff General Pero Colic said in Belgrade on 17 November that the VRS "is connected with the armies of Federal Yugoslavia and Russia, so we will not and must not make a single move without them." Colic was commenting on calls by Plavsic for the VRS to participate in the U.S.-backed "Train and Equip" program (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 1997). Colic said he feels that participation in "Train and Equip" would lead to "disintegration and disaster" for the VRS. PM
 NEW JUDGES IN THE HAGUEFive new judges joined the 11-member International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on 17 November. Outgoing tribunal President Antonio Cassese said the court begins its second four-year mandate as an established and internationally recognized institution, "Nasa Borba" wrote. Also at the tribunal, four Bosnian Croat war crimes suspects awaiting trial asked to be released, saying they are "family men" and were low-ranking soldiers who just followed orders during the war. PM
 SEARCHES LEAD TO MASS GRAVESA spokesman for Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 17 November that Croatian and Muslim officials recently found 30 bodies near Srebrenica on Serb- controlled territory. Bosnian Serb representatives exhumed the bodies of 18 uniformed Serbs in the Muslim-held Mount Ozren region, near Sarajevo. An agreement concluded on 1 November made possible the investigations. PM
 CALL FOR FORGIVENESS IN VUKOVARWilliam Walker, the UN's chief administrator in eastern Slavonia, said on 17 November at ceremonies marking the sixth anniversary of the fall of Vukovar that time has come for healing and forgiveness. Meanwhile in Orolik, a bomb exploded in an elementary school in the latest of a series of violent incidents (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 1997). PM
 CROATIA TO CUT DEFENSE SPENDINGFinance Minister Borislav Skegro said in Zagreb on 17 November that Croatia will spend less on defense, refugees, and the police in 1998 and more on science, culture, agriculture, and infrastructure. The overall budget will be 8.5 percent larger than the current one. Skegro said the government's priorities will include keeping down labor costs in order to reduce unemployment and controlling the black market economy. PM
 KUCAN AHEAD IN SLOVENIAN RACESlovenia's major dailies on 15 November showed President Milan Kucan ahead of seven challengers in the final polls published before the 23 November presidential vote. His lead over his main opponent, parliamentary speaker Janez Podobnik, varied considerably from poll to poll, however. Some polls, showed him securing more than 50 percent of the vote, while others suggested he will fall short of that figure and have to face a second round. PM
 DID WASHINGTON REPROACH SLOVENIA?Western diplomats told AFP in Ljubljana on 17 November that Washington's decision last summer not to back Slovenia for admission to NATO in the first round of expansion was a reproach for Ljubljana's failure to take a more active role in former Yugoslav affairs. The diplomats said Washington feels that Ljubljana is too preoccupied with joining Western and Central European institutions and that the prosperous Alpine republic has neglected its responsibilities toward less fortunate former Yugoslav republics. Slovenia has recently shown more interest in its Balkan neighbors and joined the Bosnian peace force early this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1997). PM
 GERMANY PLEDGES $18 MILLION FOR ALBANIARepresentatives of the German Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation told Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo in Bonn on 15 November that Germany will provide $18 million in aid to Albania next year. That sum, which constitutes roughly one-third of all EU aid to Albania in 1998, will be used for technical assistance and to help create jobs. Bonn also pledged to encourage German investments in Albania, ATA reported. Two days later, Dutch officials told Milo that The Netherlands will provide aid to agriculture, education, and the training of diplomats, "Zeri i Popullit" reported. FS
 DISPUTE OVER ROMANIAN EDUCATION LAW CONTINUESPrime Minister Victor Ciorbea on 17 November said he does not believe the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) will leave the coalition. He added, however, that the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) will not change its position on amending the education law. PNTCD Secretary-General Radu Vasile rejected UDMR leader Bela Marko's recent accusation of "blackmail," saying the UDMR itself is the only side guilty of blackmail, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. UDMR Senator Attila Verestoy compared the PNTCD to a soccer player who "is fouling a member of his own team." Meanwhile, the PNTCD faction in the Senate commented that Hungarian investments in Transylvania are "suspiciously high," Mediafax reported. MS
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT IN INDIAEmil Constantinescu on 18 November wrapped up a three-day visit to India, during which he met with his Indian counterpart, Koheril Rahman Narayanan, and Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral. He also held talks with local businessmen to discuss possible Indian investments in Romania. On 17 November, the two countries' ministers of finance concluded agreements on the mutual protection of investments and on cultural and technical- scientific cooperation, Radio Bucharest reported. MS
 BULGARIAN NUCLEAR MATERIAL TO TRANSIT NEIGHBORING COUNTRIESBulgaria, Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova have reached a preliminary agreement on the transportation by land of nuclear material for the Kozloduy reactors. An official from the Bulgarian National Electricity company told Reuters on 17 November that the four-country agreement will be signed at a 25 November meeting of the Bulgarian-Russian governmental commission in Sofia. He said the four-country agreement is for ten years and will be automatically extended if there are no objections. A separate agreement has been reached with neighboring Romania, he added. MS
 BULGARIA PRIVATIZES BLACK SEA RESORTBulgaria has sold a 33 percent stake in the Albena Black Sea tourist complex to a consortium that includes the French Banque Nationale de Paris. The consortium paid $10.1 million for its stake, dpa reported, citing BTA. Albena, one of the most attractive vacation sites on the coast, is the first Bulgarian tourist complex to be privatized. MS
[C] END NOTE
 UKRAINIANS SURVIVE ON POTATOES AS PARLIAMENT STALLS FARM REFORMSby Ron Synovitz
Potatoes are the measure of Ukraine's agricultural crisis. Ukrainians are growing more potatoes than they have in years--and less of just about everything else.
Bumper potato harvests are not a success story for the cooperative farms that have emerged out of Ukraine's half-hearted agricultural reform. On the contrary, the decline of large farms means the country now produces half as much meat and grain as it did in 1990.
The real success in Ukrainian agriculture are the 11 million garden plots distributed among two-thirds of the population by presidential decree at the end of 1992. Data from the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) show that although those private plots constitute only 14 percent of farmland, they accounted last year for 95 percent of the potato crop and 82 percent of all vegetables. Household plots also produced more than half of the country's meat and milk and two- thirds of its eggs.
Not only is private farming more efficient than the large agricultural cooperatives. But continued delays in agricultural reform also are forcing Ukrainians to survive, as they did under communism, by living off what they grow themselves . Poorly managed cooperatives simply are unable to feed the country.
Until the 1990s, Ukraine was a net grain exporter with a reputation as the breadbasket of the former Soviet Union. But today's cooperatives, stranded half-way between central planning and a market economy, are producing far less than their Soviet-era predecessors.
And the decline is continuing. Last year saw the worst grain harvest since the mid-1960s. Deputy Agriculture Minister Boris Supikhanov says this year's harvest will be better. But his projection of 37 million tons (cleanweight) still would be lower than most grain harvests since 1985. The sugar beet harvest last year was the smallest in 30 years and is expected to be even smaller this year. The OECD also notes declining numbers of livestock and large decreases in milk and egg production.
Britta Bjornlund, an economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, says that although the majority of Ukraine's farms have been transformed on paper into joint-stock cooperatives, few have changed their managers, production choices, or methods of resource allocation. Because of corrupt and inefficient managers, most large-scale cooperatives are unprofitable and falling deeper into debt. The failure to create a competitive market economy also means there is little money to replace aging Soviet-era equipment.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said in a report this month that opposition from the parliament is the main reason for the failure of Ukraine's agricultural reforms. Acceleration of land and farm privatization is on the agenda, but the legislature is dominated by former Communists who continue to pass piecemeal laws to stall the creation of market-oriented agriculture. To date, there has been no restitution to former owners of property nationalized under communism.
Volodymyr Lanoviy, the embattled acting director of the State Property Fund, which oversees the privatization process, says stalled reforms benefit the political and economic allies of legislators. Many cooperative managers previously held power within local communist hierarchies and still maintain loyalty to ex-communist deputies. Reforms that rid the country of inept cooperative managers also would dismantle much of the current legislature's agrarian power base.
Bjornlund says the success of private gardens could be the foundation of an expanded private farming sector. Most produce from those plots is kept for personal use or sold by the growers themselves through farmers' markets and trade organizations. She says those channels must be expanded as private farming grows in importance.
She also says unclear legislation on privatization must be revised with the aim of creating a class of landowners out of farm workers, rather than groups of cooperative shareholders with little understanding of their rights and options. Uncertainties about land titles also must be clarified, official limitations on farm sizes must be removed and access to roads and irrigation systems must be provided to those who choose to farm outside of the collectives.
A credit system is necessary to help private farmers buy seed and fertilizers for large-scale planting. Bjornlund notes that competition must be introduced between agro-industrial firms. For years, the parliament has blocked the privatization of that critical market link by declaring agro- industrial firms as "strategically vital state interests."
Given the entrenched interests of the parliament, it could be years before market-oriented agriculture is allowed to evolve in Ukraine. Until then, most Ukrainians will have to remain content with less meat on their plates and more home-grown potatoes.
The author is an RFE/RL news editor.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty