|Monday, 18 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 167, 97-11-25
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 167, 25 November 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIA TO PROPOSE "POLITICAL DIALOGUE" WITH EU...At his weekly press briefing on 24 November, Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparian said Armenia will soon make a formal offer to the EU to start what it calls a political dialogue on security and foreign policy issues, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That dialogue would be in addition to existing economic cooperation. Gasparian said the proposal reflects "substantial progress" in relations between the EU and Armenia in recent months. He noted that Armenian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian recently signed a temporary agreement on cooperation with the EU in Brussels, which will remain in force until the April 1996 Treaty on Partnership and Cooperation signed by the EU and Armenia is ratified by all union members. LF
 ...AND TO EXPAND COOPERATION WITH NATOAt the same press briefing, Gasparian said that while in Brussels, First Deputy Foreign Minister Oskanian reached agreement with NATO officials on boosting bilateral ties within the framework of the Partnership for Peace program, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and Noyan Tapan reported. Gasparian said NATO's role in the Transcaucasus should complement, and not infringe on, the CIS Collective Security Treaty, Russian-Armenian agreements on security cooperation, and the CFE Treaty. Gasparian accused Azerbaijan of trying to use NATO as an instrument to "contain and oppose" Russia in the Transcaucasus. Gasparian termed that policy "destructive," arguing that it may exacerbate "tension" in the region. LF
 ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ASSESSES CIS MILITARY COOPERATIONIn an interview in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 25 November, Vazgen Sargsian affirmed that Armenia aspires to "good-neighborly relations with all neighboring states based on the principles of guaranteeing peaceful coexistence and the regional balance of forces." Sargsian said some CIS states signed the CIS Collective Security Treaty solely in order to obtain the maximum possible share of former Soviet military hardware. He said he finds "incomprehensible" Russia's complaints about NATO expansion eastward in the light of Moscow's failure to promote the creation of a single CIS defense space. Sargsian again denied that Armenia received any illegal supplies of arms from Moscow. He noted that Azerbaijan received three times more equipment, including strategic weapons, from the former Soviet army than did Armenia. Azerbaijan's defense expenditure in recent years was four times higher than Armenia's, he added. LF
 ARMENIAN DRAFT BUDGET CRITICIZEDFather Husik Lazarian, the outgoing chairman of the majority Hanrapetutyun faction in the parliament, said on 24 November that there is growing disagreement between Hanrapetutyun and the government over the latter's economic policies, which run counter to the bloc's electoral programs, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Lazarian criticized the 1998 draft budget, which he said provided for "survival" rather than "development." He argued that, if passed, the budget would at best maintain living standards at the same level as this year and may even cause real wages to drop in 1998. Lazarian threatened not to vote for the draft budget unless major changes are made to it. He declined to say, however, whether his views reflect those of the majority faction. LF
 ADJARIA AMENDS CONSTITUTIONThe Supreme Soviet of Georgia's autonomous Adjar Republic voted on 22 November to amend the region's constitution, Caucasus Press reported on 24 November. The head of the Revival faction within the Georgian parliament said the amendments provide for the creation of the post of ombudsman and a Constitutional Court. But the opposition Party of National Ideology of Georgia issued a statement condemning the amendments, which they claim endow Adjar Supreme Soviet chairman Aslan Abashidze with "virtually unlimited powers" and increase Adjaria's status almost to that of an independent state. On 24 November, Abashidze dismissed the internal affairs ministers and his deputies because of a recent increase in crime. Abashidze will take over as acting interior minister in addition to his chairmanship of the Supreme Soviet. LF
 GEORGIAN OFFICIAL RESIGNS OVER MASS POISONINGRustavi Mayor Temuri Dalakishvili has resigned following the recent gastro- enteritis epidemic in the city caused by the leakage of sewage into the drinking water supply (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 1997), Caucasus Press reported on 24 November. More than 400 people, most of them children, have been hospitalized. LF
 ENERGY CRISIS IN TBILISI?Georgian Energy Minister Davit Zubitashvili is negotiating terms with Russia's Gazprom for a resumption of natural gas supplies, which have been cut owing to Georgia's unpaid debts, Caucasus Press reported on 24 November. None of Tbilisi's gas-fired power stations is currently functioning. LF
 TAJIK DONOR CONFERENCE BEGINS IN VIENNAAt the opening of a two-day donor conference in Vienna on 24 November, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov told delegates that $7 billion is needed to repair damage caused during Tajikistan's five-year civil war. Said Abdullo Nuri, the leader of the United Tajik Opposition and the chairman of the National Reconciliation Commission, assured potential donors that the inclusion of UTO members in the government will not have a negative impact post-war reform. "We are not going to impose our political and religious ideas on anyone," Nuri said. The Swiss government is to help Tajikistan's membership in the Asian Development Bank by paying the $3.7 million admission fee. Tajik officials are hoping to raise $65 million at the conference. BP
 UZBEK PRIME MINISTER IN U.S.Utkur Sultanov met with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, Energy Secretary Federico Pena, and U.S AID administrator William Atwood in Washington on 24 November, ITAR-TASS reported. Sultanov praised U.S.-Uzbek cooperation, noting that in the last three years the trade volume between the two countries has risen sevenfold. The U.S. is Uzbekistan's second biggest trade partner and accounts for $800 million in direct investment since 1991. Officials announced that the U.S.-Uzbek commission on political, economic, and technological cooperation will convene for the first time in February 1998. BP
 BIG DRUG BUST IN UZBEKISTANUzbek customs officials and National Security Service agents have discovered more than 200 kilograms of narcotics aboard a Dushanbe-Moscow train, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 November. The drugs were concealed in the train's dining car. This is reportedly the largest drug bust in Uzbekistan this year. BP
 MAJOR KAZAKH CANAL IN DANGER OF FREEZING OVERIrregular electricity energy to the Irtysh-Karaganda canal may cause the vital waterway to freeze over this year, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 November. Energy supplies have been curtailed to the company operating the canal because of payment arrears. The 458-kilometer long canal supplies nearly all of central Kazakhstan with water. BP
 MEDIA FREEDOM IN DANGER IN SEVEN CIS STATES.A recent report compiled by the international journalists' organization Reporters sans Frontieres lists seven CIS states and two East European countries where journalists' rights and freedoms are seriously threatened. Those countries are Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan as well as Romania and Macedonia, according to INFOTAG on 24 November. The assessment is based on the availability and influence of state-run media, the level of development of the independent media, violence against journalists, and the number of court proceedings against the media initiated by official bodies. Moldova was named as the worst offender owing to its 1994 press law, which makes it very difficult for journalists to defend their rights. All attempts by democratically- minded Moldovan deputies to revise that law have failed, the report noted. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 KARADZIC PARTY LEADS IN BOSNIAN SERB VOTEPreliminary results show the hard-line Serbian Democratic Party leading in the parliamentary vote with just over 31 percent of the total (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 1997). President Biljana Plavsic's Serbian People's League (SNS) follows with 21 percent. The ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party is in third place with 16 percent. Plavsic's spokesmen said the SNS won in Banja Luka and did well across the Republika Srpska. Twelve percent of the votes cast were by absentee ballots, which will take another two weeks to count. PM
 WESTENDORP SAYS NO PROTECTORATE FOR BOSNIACarlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Brussels after a 24 November meeting of EU foreign ministers that Bosnia is making progress and will not need an international protectorate to manage its affairs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 1997). He called, however, for the removal from positions of power in Bosnia of all persons opposed to the Dayton agreement, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Belgian capital. PM
 DISTRICT COUNCILS SET UP IN MOSTARLocal councils met on 24 November in six districts of Herzegovina's main town, where relations between Croats and Muslims remain tense. A recent agreement between international officials and the main Croatian and Muslim parties made it possible to set up the councils, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Mostar. PM
 ATTACKER OF CROATIAN POLITICIAN FREEDA court in Pula has given a one-and-a-half-year suspended sentence to retired army officer Tomislav Brzovic for assaulting opposition presidential candidate Vlado Gotovac this summer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 7 June 1997). The court agreed with Brzovic that his judgment was impaired because he was drunk. Gotovac and the opposition press argued that Brzovic is a well-known hit-man for nationalist groups. PM
 UN WANTS MONEY FOR FORMER YUGOSLAVIAThe UN Geneva office launched an appeal on 24 November to raise $406 million for humanitarian projects in the former Yugoslavia. Some $263 million are earmarked for Bosnia-Herzegovina, $44.6 million for Croatia, $44.5 million for federal Yugoslavia, $3.4 million for Macedonia, and $49.3 million for regional projects. PM
 MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT SLAMS MILOSEVICPresident-elect Milo Djukanovic told RFE/RL in a telephone interview on 24 November that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic behaved "incorrectly and irresponsibly" by meddling in Montenegrin politics before and after the 5 October presidential vote. Djukanovic added that Milosevic did not intervene directly but instead conducted what Djukanovic called a "media harangue" against Djukanovic and his allies. When asked about the possibility that Milosevic would use the army to try to topple the new Montenegrin government, Djukanovic said that no one could possibly have any political or other justification for intervening militarily against his republic. He added that the Yugoslav military behaves "correctly" toward the Montenegrin authorities. PM
 KOSOVAR LEADERSHIP RECEIVES ULTIMATUMAdem Demaci, the leader of the newly formed Kosovo Democratic Forum, said that the Forum will consider the Democratic League of Kosovo (the main Albanian political party) to be a "rival political force" if it does not join the forum within 15 days, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade on 23 November. In Pristina the next day, the trial of 19 Albanians on terrorism charges was adjourned until 2 December at the request of the defense. The defense team said that they want to protest what they called a politically motivated assault by unknown persons on one of the defense lawyers the previous week. Also in Pristina on 24 November, the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army released a statement claiming responsibility for the murder of a prominent ethnic Albanian member of Milosevic's party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 1997). PM
 ALBANIAN STUDENTS ON FOOD STRIKE"Koha Jone" reported on 24 November that students at boarding schools in Elbasan, Shkoder, and Tirana went on a hunger strike at various times during the previous week. The students demand more food and complain that most dormitories have neither electricity, water, nor functioning bathrooms. Elsewhere, railway workers on the Tirana-Shkoder line launched a strike on 24 November to demand that the government pay their wages in full for the last five months. They have been receiving only part pay. Meanwhile, sailors of the merchant marine in Durres have threatened to go on strike on 27 November unless the government pays their wages for the last 11 months. FS
 WILL ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS RETURN TO PARLIAMENT?Ferdinand Xhaferi, the leader of the Democratic Party's parliamentary faction, told "Dita Informacion" on 24 November that he supports the return of the Democrats to the parliament. The Democrats have boycotted parliamentary sessions since the shooting of Democratic legislator Azem Hajdari by a Socialist deputy inside the parliament building (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 1997). Also on 24 November, a roundtable of political parties, formed to discuss the drafting of a new constitution and Albania's policy toward Kosovo, failed to reach a consensus. FS
 TURKISH PRESIDENT IN ROMANIADuring his one-day visit to Bucharest on 24 November, Suleyman Demirel met with President Emil Constantinescu and addressed a joint session of the parliament's two chambers, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The two countries pledged to support each other's bid for EU membership, while Demirel said Turkey backs Romania's quest to join NATO. Constantinescu and Demirel said bilateral trade is expected to grow from $800 million to $1 billion next year. MS
 WORLD BANK AFFILIATE INVESTS IN ROMANIAN-TURKISH BANKThe International Finance Corporation on 24 November purchased 20 percent of the equity of Demirbank, a joint Romanian-Turkish venture servicing Turkish-Romanian trade and investment, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. The IFC, which is the private sector affiliate of the World Bank, approved a $5 million loan to help the bank set up comprehensive commercial banking services for medium-sized Romanian enterprises. The corporation also noted that Demirbank of Turkey, the Turkish partner in the Romanian-Turkish joint venture, has invested together with its Romanian partner, Romlease, in a joint-venture bank in Kyrgyzstan. Also on 24 November, the Turkish president attended the opening of a Demirbank branch in the Romanian capital. MS
 ROMA LEADER CRITICIZES ROMANIAN GOVERNMENTNicolae Gheorghe, a sociologist who heads the Romani Cris center for the study of social problems among Roma, told an OSCE meeting in Warsaw on 24 November that the attitude of the Romanian government toward the Roma minority is "ambiguous" and often verged on "duplicity." He said incidents between the ethnic Romanian majority and Roma are prompted by racial attitudes rather than by social causes. Gheorghe added that the government undertakes no concrete steps for the Roma's protection and limits itself to "declaration-making," Mediafax reported. MS
 MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT PASSES ELECTION LAWLawmakers have passed the election law several months ahead of the vote scheduled for March 1998, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 24 November. Under the new legislation, the 101-member parliament will be elected by a system of proportional representation in a single, nationwide constituency, as was the case in the 1994 elections. Meanwhile, Infotag reported on 24 November that the Supreme Court has announced it will examine whether the new law is in harmony with the constitutional provision stipulating that election laws be passed with a "special majority." It also decided not to nominate its representatives to the Central Electoral Commission. Under current legislation, the nominations should have been made by 25 November, 10 days after the president set the date for the next elections. MS
 U.S. THREATENS SANCTIONS AGAINST BULGARIA OVER CD PIRACYA U.S. delegation in Sofia has warned Bulgaria that trade sanctions will be imposed if it does not clamp down on compact disc piracy, Reuters reported on 24 November. The Bulgarian Interior Ministry issued a statement saying that the head of the delegation "was categorical that if the production and distribution of pirated production is not liquidated by April ..., trade sanctions will be imposed on our country." Bulgaria is considered the world's second biggest producer of pirate CDs and CD-ROMs, after China. Washington put Bulgaria on a piracy "watch list" in 1996. MS
[C] END NOTE
 AZERBAIJANI PRIVATIZATION MAKES PROGRESS ON SEVERAL FRONTSby Michael Wyzan
The privatization process in Azerbaijan is governed by a three-year program whereby 70 percent of enterprises are to be privatized by the end of 1998. The program divides enterprises into small, medium-size, and large and employs different privatization methods for each category of firm. In industry, enterprises with fewer than 50 workers are considered small, while those with between 50 and 300 are classified as medium-sized and those with more than 300 as large. The respective figures in the service sector are 10, 11-50, and more than 50.
Small enterprises are privatized by auction. More than 15,000 such firms have been sold this way, and the process is now 70-80 percent complete. A local peculiarity is that, even under communism, small enterprises were run by individuals who were regarded as their "owners." All but one of the auctions have had only one bidder. It is considered unethical to bid against someone who is already seen as owning the firm up for auction.
The absence of competition at auctions may reduce the state's privatization revenues and deprive many individuals of the opportunity to participate in small-scale privatization. Nonetheless, the sense of ownership felt by Azerbaijanis even when "their" small businesses were state property illustrates the entrepreneurial inclinations of much of the population. Those inclinations are evident in the quality of service in Baku's many restaurants and shops, which is unusually high for a postcommunist country.
The privatization of such small businesses is relatively easy and uncontroversial. But determining the fate of large industrial enterprises that have lost their markets in the former Soviet Union is another matter, as is finding a way for the local private sector to participate in the burgeoning oil business. Although the state oil company will not be privatized, experts estimate that private consortia will account for 75 percent of oil production by 2010.
A mass privatization program was launched in March. Under that program, 7, 100,000 books--each containing four vouchers--were distributed among the population between 1 March and 15 August. All citizens were eligible to participate, and each was entitled to a single book or, in the case of war veterans, two books.
The first step in the privatization of larger enterprises is to turn them into joint-stock companies, after which 15 percent of the shares must be sold to their employees for vouchers. Another 55 percent must be sold at open voucher auctions and the remaining 30 percent in cash auctions in which foreigners may also participate.
Voucher auctions have been held at regular intervals over the eight months since the program was launched. At any such auction, some 50 enterprises are up for sale and bidding takes place in six cities, with the results pooled by computer. The prices of the shares are determined by the number of vouchers offered for them in those auctions. To date, shares in 340 large enterprises have been sold. By the end of 1997, that figure is expected to reach 400 (out of a total of some 2,000).
Vouchers are tradable, officially at the country's 10-20 voucher shops but in practice also on the black market. There is as yet no stock exchange where the shares obtained with the vouchers could be traded, although it is possible to update computer records to indicate that share ownership has changed.
Large enterprises fall into one of four categories. Companies in the first category may not be privatized and include railroads, water facilities, historical and cultural monuments, pension funds, and the national bank. The second category comprises companies that may be privatized only by presidential decree; such companies are involved in fuel and energy production, petrochemicals, telecommunications, and bread- and wine-making. The privatization method for firms in this category is the same as for other large firms, except that a non-voting "golden share" is reserved for the state.
The third category covers enterprises that may be privatized only by decree of the Council of Ministers; those companies deal with sales of oil and oil products, construction, road maintenance, and medical services. The final category embraces the remaining large enterprises, all of which must be privatized.
Investment funds have yet to be set up, although the legislation governing such bodies is already in place. In the long run, creating mutual investment funds and pension funds--which will allow people to benefit from the nation's vast resource wealth--may be more important for the country's economic fortunes than giving those people shares in moribund industrial enterprises.
The author is an economist living in Austria.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty