|Tuesday, 4 August 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 166, 97-11-24
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 166, 24 November 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 AZERBAIJAN REJECTS PASSPORTS PRINTED IN FRANCEThe Azerbaijani government has refused to accept delivery of 4 million passports printed in France, arguing that the quality is unacceptable and pointing out that the Azerbaijani-language sections contain orthographic errors, AFP reported on 22 November. French Ambassador to Baku Jean-Pierre Guinhut told Turan that the Azerbaijani leadership had insisted on the lowest possible price. He commented that it is impossible to produce a world-standard passport for only $1. Azerbaijani citizens are still using Soviet-era passports, whose the validity has been extended by the parliament. LF
 AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTER IN LEBANONHasan Hasanov met with his Lebanese counterpart, Fares Bweiz, Prime Minister Rafic Al-Hariri and President Elias al-Hrawi in Beirut on 19-20 November. The Central Committee of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) in Lebanon issued a statement criticizing remarks Hasanov made to Lebanese media, Asbarez-on-Line reported on 21 November. Hasanov was said to have argued that the Karabakh conflict is an international one between Armenia and Azerbaijan. He was also reported to have exaggerated the number of Azerbaijanis forced to flee their homes during the fighting. Hasanov's visit was the second stop in a Middle Eastern tour aimed at rapprochement with Syria and Lebanon. Armenia enjoys cordial relations with both those countries. LF
 ARMENIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS TO STEP DOWNRuben Hakobian, the leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) in Armenia, and Gagik Mkrtchian, the editor of the Dashnak party paper "Hayots Ashkhar," have asked to be relieved of those posts, Noyan Tapan reported on 21 November. A senior Dashnak party member told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 22 November that Hakobian's decision was prompted by purely personal reasons. The Armenian press, however, speculates that his resignation reflects serious differences within the party over how to resolve the Karabakh conflict. LF
 WORLD BANK AID FOR ARMENIA NOT LINKED TO POLITICSVahram Nersisiantz, the World Bank's representative in Armenia, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Yerevan on 21 November that the bank would not reconsider its loan programs for Armenia if the government refused to recognize Azerbaijan's sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh. Nersisiantz said the World Bank's future aid to Armenia will be contingent only on "economic and not political criteria." He praised the Armenian government for its policies of economic reform, arguing that they have largely been a success, despite "some minor drawbacks." In recent years, the World Bank has granted Yerevan more than $200 million in credits and low-interest loans. Most of the aid has been used for reconstructing the country's infrastructure and covering its budget deficit. LF
 DOES ARMENIA HAVE A DRUG PROBLEM?Ashot Mkrtchyan, the government official in charge of monitoring drug- related crimes, has warned that Armenia is a center and transit point for international drugs smuggling, Asbarez-on-Line reported on 21 November, citing Noyan Tapan. Mkrtchyan said 500 people are currently serving prison sentences for drug-related crimes and that the volume of drugs confiscated has increased by 30 times during the past four years. But an Italian police official who recently visited Yerevan and met with Prosecutor-General Genrik Khachatryan concluded that, unlike other countries in the region (which he did not name), the situation in Armenia gives no grounds for alarm, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 22 November. LF
 GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ASSESSES ABKHAZ TALKSIrakli Menagharishvili told journalists in Tbilisi on 21 November that since the recent talks in Geneva on the Abkhaz conflict created the foundation for ongoing negotiations, those discussions should not be termed a failure, Russian media reported. Menagharishvili disclosed that the Abkhaz delegation rejected the Georgian proposal to strike from the agenda the question of Abkhazia's future political status. He denied that the Georgian leadership's disapproval of the Russian decision to import agricultural produce from Abkhazia would prompt Georgian foreign policymakers to give greater priority to relations with the U.S. Menagharishvili also denied that Russia's role in mediating the Abkhaz conflict is being eclipsed by the growing involvement of the UN Secretary- General's "Friends of Georgia" group. LF
 TAJIK PRESIDENT DISCUSSES HOSTAGE-TAKING WITH FRENCH AMBASSADORTajik President Imomali Rakhmonov met with the French ambassador to Tajikistan on 21 November to discuss the two French nationals still being held by unknown abductors, Interfax reported. Tajik authorities confirmed that there have been two phone calls demanding the release of Bahrom Sadirov in exchange for the hostages. On 24 November, 11 suspects were taken into custody in connection with the kidnapping, and Deputy Prime Minister Abdurahmon Azimov said the area where Rezvon Sadirov and his gang are located, some 30 kilometers east of Dushanbe, has been surrounded, ITAR- TASS reported. BP
 THIEVES CAUGHT OUTSIDE BAIKONUR SPACE CENTERTroops from Kazakhstan's National Security Committee and Interior Ministry apprehended a band of thieves as they were stealing sections of electric power lines near the Baikonur cosmodrome, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 November. The thieves used tractors to fell 46 pylons and were loading some 2 tons of the aluminum wire onto trucks when they were caught. All are unemployed and pleaded poverty. Local officials say they do not have the money to repair the damage. BP
 TURKMENISTAN TO AUCTION OFF STATE ENTERPRISESPresident Saparmurat Niyazov announced on 21 November that his country will hold auctions from January to March 1998 for 50 state-owned enterprises, ITAR-TASS reported. Half of those companies are in the textile sector, while others in the energy, industry, construction, and food and fruit industries will be among those going on the block. By the year 2000, Turkmenistan hopes to auction off a total of 350 such enterprises. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 SLOVENES RE-ELECT KUCANPresident Milan Kucan easily won a second five-year term on 23 November. He took 55 percent of the vote in a field of eight candidates. Parliamentary speaker Janez Podobnik placed second, with 18 percent. Kucan said he will work to bring Slovenia into European institutions, particularly the EU and NATO. PM
 BOSNIAN SERBS GO TO POLLSVoters across the Republika Srpska went to the polls on 22 and 23 November to vote in an election aimed at breaking the power deadlock between President Biljana Plavsic and her hard-line rivals, led by Radovan Karadzic. Monitors from the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which supervised the vote, said that no major incidents were reported. Well over half of the eligible 1.1 million voters turned out to elect 83 legislators. A 50 percent turnout was necessary for the elections to be valid. Muslim and Croatian refugees were eligible to vote by absentee ballot. Results will not be announced for two weeks in order to allow enough time for mail votes from abroad to be received and counted. PM
 CROATIAN UNION THREATENS DOCK STRIKELeaders of the dock workers' union said on 22 November that union members will strike in Ploce, Split, Zadar, Sibenik, and Rijeka if the government agrees to lease the port of Ploce to Bosnia for 30 years, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the port city. Union leaders said that leasing the port would violate Croatian sovereignty. The U.S. government recommended the leasing arrangement to break the deadlock between Zagreb over the use of Ploce, which is Croatian territory but Bosnia's natural outlet to the sea. PM
 CROATIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES AMENDMENTSThe lower house on 21 November approved a package of constitutional amendments that President Franjo Tudjman proposed at the beginning of the month. The upper house has already passed the measures (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 1997). One provision bans Croatian membership in any new Yugoslavia or Balkan regional grouping of states. PM
 CROATIA WANTS UN POLICE IN SLAVONIAThe Foreign Ministry issued a statement in Zagreb on 21 November calling for UN police to remain in eastern Slavonia after that area is fully reintegrated into Croatia on 15 January. The statement added that Zagreb fears "possible incidents and provocations and attempts to blame the Croatian side for such unacceptable acts.... [The Croatian government thus] thinks that a [UN] monitoring presence could be useful and could also be a clear message to all rabble-rousers to refrain from obstructing the completion of peaceful reintegration." PM
 SOROS ORGANIZATION BLASTS CROATIAN GOVERNMENTThe Open Society Institute (OSI) issued a statement in New York on 21 November slamming a Zagreb court ruling the previous day that convicted two leading employees of OSI's Zagreb branch of tax fraud. The statement said that "Croatia has distinguished itself as the first state in the former communist world to criminalize the work of our foundations. It is now unmistakably clear that a systematic campaign is being directed from the highest levels of the state to drive independent organizations out of Croatia." PM
 KOSOVARS TO VOTEA spokesman for the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), the main ethnic Albanian political organization in that Serbian-ruled province, said on 22 November that LDK leader and shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova will call parliamentary and presidential elections before the end of the year, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Pristina. The LDK's claim to be the leading Kosovar political organization has been challenged recently by critics who argue that its tactics of passive resistance and seeking foreign support have led nowhere (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 1997). PM
 ALBANIA PLEDGES CRACKDOWN ON MIGRANTSInterior Minister Neritan Ceka said in Tirana on 22 November that the authorities will soon draft and pass legislation regulating private boat ownership and maritime traffic. He added that four Italian ships will help patrol Albania's coast and discourage illegal migrants from sailing to Italy, "Koha Jone" reported. Italian coast guards rescued 11 Albanians in a damaged speed boat in the Adriatic on 21 November but also found five bodies in the water. Albanian police said that another 17 people may have drowned when a second vessel sank. Italian police in Brindisi on 22 November arrested a 26-year-old man, whom they believe to be the organizer of the latest wave of illegal migration, "Zeri i Popullit" reported. FS
 MORE ARMS SMUGGLING FROM ALBANIA TO GREECEA Greek army patrol seized an Albanian smuggling anti-tank missiles across the border on 22 November. The Greeks confiscated the weapons, but the smuggler fled back into Albania. Meanwhile in the central Albanian town of Rrogozhina, masked gunmen killed Artur Murrani, a local Democratic Party politician. A Democratic Party statement in Tirana accused the governing Socialists of being behind the attack. Socialist spokesmen denied the charges. PM
 ROMANIA DROPS BID TO REHABILITATE ANTONESCU CABINET MEMBERSProsecutor-General Sorin Moisescu on 22 November announced his office is halting the judicial procedure for the rehabilitation of members of Marshal Ion Antonescu's wartime cabinet. The decision came in the wake of protest in the U.S. against that procedure. Two days after Moisescu had said "collective responsibility" did not apply to those about to be rehabilitated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 1997), his office issued a statement saying that a "re-examination" of the case had concluded that "collective political rather than administrative responsibility" does apply to seven out of the eight former ministers. The exception is Toma Petre Ghitulescu, who resigned from Antonescu's government in May 1941, before it stepped up its anti-Jewish policies and joined Nazi Germany's campaign against the Soviet Union. MS
 SPLIT AMONG ROMANIAN EXTREME NATIONALISTS IN OFFING...Meeting in Cluj on 22 November, members of the National Council of the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) who back former party chairman Gheorghe Funar invalidated the PUNR's decision in early November to expel Funar from the party. The meeting, attended by 128 of the council's 243 members, also suspended PUNR chairman Valeriu Tabara and 11 other council members and announced an extraordinary PUNR national convention in Cluj on 29 November, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. PUNR Executive Secretary Valentin Iliescu said the Cluj gathering's decisions were illegal and contravened party statutes. He added that the statutory National Council will meet on 29 November in Bucharest, adding that a split in the PUNR cannot be ruled out. MS
 ...WHILE MAIN OPPOSITION PARTY STEPS INTO THE BREACHThe leadership of the main opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), meeting in the Transylvanian town of Sfantu Gheorghe on 21 November, announced that nationalism is to be given "priority" in the party's "political discourse." The party noted that its nationalist policies are "constructive" and not identical with the "extremist positions" of the PUNR and the Greater Romania Party, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. The PDSR said it will rally all citizens to the defense of the "national, unitary, sovereign, and independent" character of the Romanian state. It added that it wants the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania to "clarify its positions" on the issue of autonomy for ethnic Hungarians. MS
 RUSSIAN CIS MINISTER WRAPS UP MOLDOVAN VISITRussian Minister for CIS Affairs Anatolii Adamishin told journalists in Chisinau on 21 November that while all the military arsenal stationed in Moldova is Russian property, Moscow is ready to make a "good-will gesture" and share with Chisinau and Tiraspol the profits from selling part of that arsenal, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. He said trilateral negotiations should begin immediately to find a formula for sharing those profits. He also stressed that the transfer of the weapons to either Chisinau or Tiraspol was "out of the question." Adamishin said Tiraspol's fears for its security after the Russian withdrawal are "exaggerated" but a solution must be found to appease the separatists. Negotiating the region's special status remains the most difficult problem, he added. MS
 EU EXTENDS LOAN TO BULGARIABulgarian National Bank governor Svetoslav Gavriiski told journalists on 21 November that the EU has agreed to extend $285 million to support Bulgaria's balance of payments, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. Gavriiski spoke after returning from a meeting in Brussels with a joint EU, World Bank and G-24 consultative group. Participants in the meeting praised Bulgaria's recent progress on economic reforms. MS
 BULGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY LAUNCHES CORRUPTION PROBEDeputy Interior Minister Bozhidar Popov on 21 November told an international conference on corruption in Sofia that some 100 state employees are currently under investigation on suspicion of corruption. Most of them work in the customs services and the Interior Ministry. Popov also said that the Bulgarian authorities are investigating some bankers suspected of involvement in money laundering. MS
[C] END NOTE
 ALBANIA'S GOVERNMENT: CONFUSION, INCOMPETENCE, AND LACK OF VISIONby Fabian Schmidt
Four months after the Albanian government took office and pledged to carry out administrative restructuring, international observers and advisers in Tirana are becoming increasingly impatient with the pace of reform. True, the elections in June proceeded peacefully and the government managed to quickly reestablish public order. But fear is now growing that the government will display the same incompetence and corruption as did its predecessor. If that proved the case, it is unlikely that the authorities would be able to solve the country's daunting economic problems.
The tiny elite of foreign-trained specialists in top government positions appears committed to change and is working hard to achieve that aim. But the government is not only nearly paralyzed because of a huge budget deficit; it is also under pressure from various lobby groups that are demanding small favors. Local government bodies are largely antagonistic toward the center because most mayors are from the opposition Democratic Party. Few Albanians, moreover, fully trust the judiciary, which has been a politicized institution throughout its history.
But the biggest obstacles to reform are probably the political cultural ones. Many state employees, from lowly clerks to high-ranking officials, lack a sense of duty and commitment. Many state officials at various levels display little concern either for the work ethic or the responsibilities of their office. Such an attitude have roots in the Ottoman era and account for the low productivity of much of the administration. Another problem is that government salaries are low, compared with those of international organizations, NGOs, or even some local newspapers, which prompts many qualified people not to take government jobs. Poor remuneration also makes the administration vulnerable to corruption.
The biggest dilemma for the government is how to restructure the administration. On the one hand, there is a pressing need to fire many incompetent employees, downsize the administration, and hire fewer but better qualified people. On the other, leading officials of the Socialist- led government know they must not appear to be conducting political purges of Democrats while bringing back communist-era specialists.
Some observers feel that a political purge has indeed begun. The Socialist Party rank-and-file are a strong pressure group demanding that the still strongly centralized government create jobs for them in the administration. Often the cabinet gives in, contributing to a perception of the government as "patron," as is customary in the Balkans. As was the case when the Democrats were in power, many Socialist Party members now appear to consider the state their property, not that of society as a whole.
Owing to a lack of tradition of civil society, most people are disinclined to fight for their interests outside the system of political parties and the patronage of those groups. Few are willing to organize themselves at the grass-roots level, to start local initiatives, or to defend their interests against either the government or big businesses. That passive attitude has been instilled by decades of authoritarian or totalitarian rule, during which people were unable to fight for their rights.
Another burden of the past is that many people associate any form of joint effort with communist collectivism and are thus reluctant to pool their resources for the common good. Agricultural productivity is stunted by the recent proliferation of dwarf holdings and unwillingness among peasants to form agricultural cooperatives. Thus, agriculture, which is potentially a source of wealth, remains underdeveloped. The peasants lack the necessary vision or leadership to help make the country more prosperous.
Both vision and leadership are also frequently absent in some government institutions, including state-run media. Politicians talk enthusiastically about transforming state radio and television as well as the news agency ATA into public corporations, like those throughout much of Europe. A new law regulating broadcasting is being drafted, but for the time being, nothing has changed. State radio and television do not even have a separate news room, while ATA still has its communist-era statutes. Until recently, no one seemed to have noticed that the news agency still obliges journalists to conduct "communist agitation and propaganda."
The author is a Balkan specialist based in Tirana.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty