|Tuesday, 12 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 135, 98-07-16
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 135, 16 July 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 RUSSIA MAY WITHDRAW PEACEKEEPERS FROM ABKHAZIA...Russian presidential representative to the CIS Ivan Rybkin On15 July warned that Moscow will withdraw its peacekeeping force from Abkhazia unless Tbilisi and Sukhumi take measures to resolve the Abkhaz conflict peacefully, Interfax reported. The previous day, the Russian Foreign Ministry had said that the peacekeeping force, five of whose members were killed by a mine on 12 July, will be withdrawn unless measures are taken to prevent such attacks on its personnel. Also on 15 July, eight civilians died when their horse-drawn cart ran over a mine in Gali Raion. Abkhaz Security Chief Astamur Tarba told Interfax he does not doubt that both mines were laid by Georgian guerrillas. LF
 ...WHILE GEORGIA DISCLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR MINE DEATHSThe Georgian Foreign and State Security Ministries have issued a joint statement saying "it is senseless to blame the Georgian authorities for atrocities occurring in a conflict zone controlled by Abkhaz militants and Russian peacekeepers," Caucasus Press reported on 16 July. The statement again denied that there are any Georgian guerrillas in Gali. LF
 UN OFFICIAL'S MURDER "NOT POLITICAL"Georgian Interior Ministry officials said on 15 July that the shooting the previous day of a Polish woman employed by the UN mission in Tbilisi was not a political assassination, ITAR- TASS reported. The woman was shot dead at close range at the door of her apartment, probably by burglars, according to the ministry. UN mission head Liviu Bota discussed the killing on 15 July with Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili. The Foreign Ministry has since issued a statement expressing regret at the shooting as well as the hope that it will not adversely impact the activities of either the UN or other international organizations in Georgia. LF
 SERGEEV WRAPS UP YEREVAN VISITRussian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev on 15 July inspected Russian troops stationed at the Kanaker base near Yerevan and on the Armenian-Turkish border, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. In a joint communique, Sergeev and his Armenian counterpart, Vazgen Sargsian, pledged to continue military cooperation, which they termed "satisfactory" and a factor for peace and stability in the Transcaucasus. Sergeev told journalists before leaving Yerevan the same day that he and Sargsian reached agreement on measures to ensure Armenia's integration into the combined CIS air defense system. Sargsian expressed his thanks for Russia's "invaluable assistance in building Armenia's national army." LF
 ALIEV WARNS AGAINST ELECTION FRAUDAddressing the parliament on 14 July, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev warned that he will hold local administrators responsible for ensuring there are no violations of voting procedures during the October presidential poll, Turan reported. He promised that the rights of all presidential candidates will be respected, regardless of their political orientation. And he called on the country's media to cease propaganda in favor of his re-election for a second term. Former President Ayaz Mutalibov told Turan in a telephone interview on 15 July that he thinks opposition candidates should abandon their declared boycott and participate in the poll in order to preclude political confrontation and build an image of Azerbaijan as a democratic country. LF
 AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PROTESTS ONGOING HARASSMENTTwo members of the Azerbaijan Democratic Party began a hunger strike on 15 July to protest the trial and sentencing of ADP officials Gurban Mamedov and Jamaleddin Ahmedov on charges of spreading disinformation, Turan reported. Early this month, the two were sentenced to five and nine years' imprisonment, respectively, in connection with a report released by Mamedov that Security Minister Namig Abbasov was preparing to assassinate President Aliev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1998). Vahdat Party leader Tair Kerimli told Turan on 15 July that his party will begin picketing the Ministry of Justice and call for the resignation of both Minister Sudaba Hasanova and Aliev if the ministry continues to refuse to register the Vahdat Party. LF
 WORRIES ABOUT MORE FLOODING IN CENTRAL ASIAAfter the 8 July flood in the Fergana Valley, which left nearly 100 people dead and caused severe damage to the Uzbek section of the valley., efforts are under way to prevent another such tragedy, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. The Kyrgyz Ministry of Emergencies has ordered that helicopters fly over lakes and rivers of the country to assess whether there is a risk of flooding. That move follows sharp criticism by the Uzbek government that Kyrgyzstan failed to give advance notice of the recent flooding. In Tajikistan, Russian border guards are helping evacuate citizens living near the Pyanj River in the southern part of the country, ITAR-TASS and "Krasnaya Zvezda" reported on 14 July and 15 July, respectively. The level of the river has risen in places to 50 percent above the normal level. BP
 SITUATION SOUTH OF ISSIK-KUL MAY BE WORSE THAN EARLIER REPORTEDWhile the effects of the 20 May sodium cyanide spill into the Barskoon River are reported to have been dealt with, new questions are arising about the clean-up process, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 15 July. Two weeks after the spill, chloride was first used in the cleanup. Though chloride is typically used in such situations, it must be applied immediately. Reports from hospitals in the area say some local residents have developed a rash, possibly related to the chloride. Moreover, independent experts from the U.S. were unable to reach the Kumtor gold mine, which is held responsible for the spill, to inspect conditions there. The experts were informed that the plane assigned them by the government was unable to fly owing to technical reasons. BP
 LARGE WEAPONS HAUL SEIZED IN KAZAKHSTANKazakh police on 12 July seized a large amount of weapons while searching a vehicle, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty and "Krasnaya Zvezda" reported on 14 and 15 July, respectively. Traveling in the car were two Kyrgyz citizens, one Chinese, and one Turkish. Also in the vehicle were guns, gun powder, electronic detonators, and home- made bombs. Kazakh authorities suspect the group were planning terrorist action. An investigation is under way. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 NATO UNLIKELY TO INTERVENE IN KOSOVAUnspecified U.S. Defense Department officials told reporters at the Pentagon on 15 July that the Atlantic alliance is unlikely to take any concrete action in Kosova in the foreseeable future unless "intolerable" atrocities take place there. The spokesmen said that the Serbian forces have slowed their advance recently and a "balance of sorts" has emerged on the ground. Officials stressed that "our goal is to bring about serious negotiations" and that political solutions have priority. The spokesmen said that NATO wants to "take a balanced view" rather than a "one-sided approach" in Kosova, which would be the case if it helped the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) achieve independence. The UCK "needs to know--and NATO has made this clear and the U.S. government has made this clear--that the cavalry is not coming," the "New York Times" quoted one official as saying. PM
 AUSTRIA WANTS BURDEN FOR REFUGEES SHAREDInterior Minister Karl Schloegl said in Vienna on 16 July that "a mass exodus" from Kosova is under way and unlikely to end soon, AP reported. He added that he will tell his counterparts from Germany, Italy, France, and Switzerland when they meet in Gaschurn, western Austria, later the same day that they need to find a "common answer" to deal with what promises to be a "major migration." Schloegl stressed that he fears many refugees will come to Austria, as was the case during the wars in the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1995. The minister argued that Austria cannot accept such large numbers of displaced persons again. During those years, some 92,000 refugees went to Austria, the largest number per capita of the resident population in any EU member country. PM
 KOSOVAR HELD IN SUSPECTED ATTEMPT ON NANO'S LIFESpokesmen for the Albanian Public Order Ministry said in Tirana on 16 July that police arrested 19-year-old Faruk Mazreku two days earlier after catching him in the garden of Prime Minister Fatos Nano. Mazreku, who is a recently arrived refugee from Kosova, told police that he only wanted to talk to Nano. It is unclear whether Mazreku was armed or how he managed to get past security guards, dpa wrote. AFP reported that he was armed with a knife and that he is Kosova-born but a permanent resident of Belgrade. Some Tirana dailies suggested that Mazreku may be acting on behalf of an unnamed "foreign intelligence service" or in league with militant Kosovars angry with what they regard as Nano's "pacifist" policy toward that province. Meanwhile in Paris, OSCE Chairman Bronislaw Geremek said that Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova is losing political ground to the UCK with "every passing day," the Belgrade daily "Danas" wrote. PM
 DEMIREL WARNS OF 'SECOND BOSNIA'Turkish President Suleyman Demirel told the Albanian parliament on 15 July that his country will provide $100,000 to help care for Kosovar refugees in Albania. He added that "we are losing time. I urge the world that Bosnia should not be repeated." He argued that "ethnic cleansing" is taking place in Kosova but noted that he is against "the use of the force. It's true, many times in the Balkans force was exercised to reach a goal, but we are living in peace time.... The people in Kosova are suffering a war [of sorts]. It's not a classic one, but...the consequences so far have been dramatic." PM
 ILLEGAL MIGRANT TRAFFIC FROM ALBANIA TO ITALY INCREASINGThe Italian Coast Guard has intercepted 15 speedboats carrying some 150 illegal migrants over the past three days, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported on 16 July. The Coast Guard rescued 19 immigrants from a boat on 15 July after its motor failed. Most of those detained recently are Albanian citizens, but some are refugees from Kosova. FS
 ALBANIAN CONSTITUTION COMMISSION WANTS BROAD DEBATESabri Godo, who heads the parliament's Constitutional Commission, told the legislature on 15 July that all Albanians should actively participate in drafting a new constitution. The same day, "Shekulli" and "Gazeta Shqiptare" began publishing a series of articles that will present the entire proposed draft. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party has rejected an invitation to discuss the draft with representatives of the Council of Europe's Venice Commission, which provides expert legal advice. The commission is reviewing the draft basic law at the request of the Albanian parliament. Godo said he expects a parliamentary vote and a popular referendum on the constitution to take place before the end of this year. FS
 DJUKANOVIC SAYS 'NO COMPROMISE WITH MILOSEVIC'Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 15 July that he "recently" spoke to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic but that the two men did not reach a compromise on the key political issues that divide them. Djukanovic stressed that his government continues to refuse to recognize his arch-rival Momir Bulatovic as Yugoslav prime minister, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital. Djukanovic warned that any attempts to "entangle" the Yugoslav army in the crisis in Kosova would be a "tragedy" for all of Yugoslavia. Also in Podgorica, spokesmen for the Montenegrin Helsinki Committee for Human Rights demanded that the government give a full explanation of the role of the military in Kosova. The spokesmen charged that some Montenegrin troops have been sent there against their will. PM
 UN EXTENDS PREVLAKA MANDATEThe UN Security Council voted in New York on 15 July to extend the mandate for UN military observers in the Prevlaka region of Croatia for an additional six months. The resolution confirmed the "sovereignty and territorial integrity of Croatia within its internationally recognized frontiers." Croatian Ambassador to the UN Ivan Simonovic hailed the resolution, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He stressed that it shows the UN considers the Prevlaka dispute between Zagreb and Belgrade not to be one of borders, but rather one of security. Prevlaka belongs to Croatia but controls access to Yugoslavia's only deep- water naval base, which is located in Kotor Bay. PM
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ADDRESSES JOINT SESSION OF CONGRESSEmil Constantinescu told a joint session of the U.S. Congress that his country is the key to stability in southeastern Europe and should become a member of NATO in order to realize that role, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 15 July. Constantinescu said that Bucharest needs the support of Washington. He added that Romania currently meets all the qualifications needed for NATO membership and wants to join a community of nations "bound by freedom, human dignity, and prosperity." Constantinescu is due to meet with President Bill Clinton and other senior U.S. officials on 16 July. PB
 LEADER OF ROMANIAN RIOTS DEFIES AUTHORITIESRomanian miners' leader Miron Cozma, who was recently freed from prison, has defied a two-year ban on visits to Bucharest, Reuters reported. Speaking in the capital on 15 July, Cozma called the ban reminiscent of "Communist-era practice." In June, Cozma finished serving a 15-month sentence for charges linked to the disruption of rail traffic during a labor protest in 1996. He is well known for his part in leading the riots in Bucharest in 1990 and 1991 that caused the first post-Communist government to fall. Cozma, now a member of the chauvinist Greater Romania Party, said he was sorry for the riots, in which several people were killed and dozens injured. PB
 ETHNIC TURKS CAUGHT FLEEING BULGARIABulgarian police detained 56 ethnic Turks on 15 July trying to cross into Turkey, AP reported. The arrests were made at the Kapitan Andreevo border crossing, southeast of Sofia. Many of them paid hundreds of dollars each to be smuggled into Turkey. Ankara tightened visa requirements for Bulgaria's 800,000 ethnic Turks in 1990. Some 300,000 ethnic Turks emigrated to Turkey in the late 1980s after the ruling Communists forcibly Slavicized Turkish names. PB
[C] END NOTE
 SOME CZECH COMPANIES PUSH AHEAD, DESPITE POLITICAL MALAISEby Breffni O'Rourke
It is often said that Italy runs better without a government than with one. In the last half century, Italian governments have averaged less than a year in office, making long-term policy planning largely impossible.
But despite many flaws, Italy has made enormous economic progress within one generation, lifting large sections of its population out of post-war poverty to today's comfortable standard of living.
The explanation must lie in the fact that the Italian business world simply bypassed the squabbling politicians. Using their traditions of artisanship, enterprise, and hard work, they went ahead with making money and creating jobs. And when inefficient bureaucracy got in the way, there were, of course, always means of keeping officials content.
In the Czech Republic today, there seem to be some parallels with Italy. As in the Mediterranean country, the electoral process in the Czech Republic has produced fragmentation so that no one party can hope to build a strong government. Premier Vaclav Klaus's center-right coalition collapsed after a long period of paralysis and internal dissension. A temporary government of technocrats took over and has performed well, but it has been unable to continue broad reforms or give the country a long-term perspective for economic planning. Following inconclusive elections last month, it seems likely that a left-wing minority government will be supported in office by its rightist opponents.
Meanwhile, the country is practically rudderless, with the economy at zero growth or less, wages falling, and joblessness growing. Foreign investment is down to a trickle. But all is not gloom and doom. There are surprisingly positive results being achieved by major Czech companies that have shaken off old inefficient ways. And others that have not yet thrown off the stifling blanket of pseudo-privatization are trying to follow their example.
The industrial national flagship is the Skoda automobile company, based in Mlada Boleslav. Owned by Volkswagen Group of Germany, Skoda has been transformed in a few years to a profit maker, and although sales on a depressed domestic market are diving (by 16 percent), they are rising steeply in the competitive West European market (by 11 percent). In Italy, in particular, sales of the stylish new Skodas are soaring.
A massive infusion of German expertise and capital has been the driving force behind Skoda's revitalization, although the Czech workers and managers are proud of their speedy adaptation to new ways. But other major Czech companies have stood their ground without a top- line foreign partner. One is CKD Holdings of Prague, the transport engineering conglomerate. The company says that every third tram in the world is from CKD. Since privatization in 1994, CKD has carried out a rigorous restructuring program to enable it to face the world.
CKD press spokesman Richard Pazout says that "unlike most companies in the Czech Republic, we have started a real, strict restructuring process, cutting down on the number of our businesses, concentrating on the core activities that we can compete with on the world market."
The company now concentrates on five core industries, including rail transport and environmental technology, and its staff has been cut from 20, 000 to 14,000. Profit after tax last year was some $10 million on a turnover of some $360 million. That contrasts with heavy losses in 1996 after provision had to be made for Russia's non-payment of a huge 1991 order for locomotives. CKD's biggest market is still the Czech Republic, but it has a worldwide presence and one of its biggest current orders is trams worth $100 million for the Philippines.
Another, even bigger Czech concern is the Skoda Limited group, which employs 35,000 people in a many- sided business empire based on heavy engineering. Skoda Limited, headquartered in Plzen, is not related to the car company. In recent years, it has embarked on a program of acquisitions outside its core activities and, in some cases, even outside the country. Thus in 1996, it took over the famous but deeply indebted Tatra truck concern as well as the troubled car press-maker Umformtechnik Erfurt, based in eastern Germany. This expansion into non-core areas contributed to the dissipation of the group's energies, and last year losses amounted to some $38 million.
Under increasing pressure from its bank creditors, Skoda now says it is moving toward big-scale restructuring, including the sale of its new acquisitions. Executive Vice President of Technology Jan Musil says emphasis in future will be strictly on the core activities, including metallurgy, transport systems, and power generation equipment. Six product areas will be ended.
Musil says that preliminary results for the first part of this year indicate a group profit. And he says restructuring will begin in earnest: "We are selling many old production areas, which should give a total saving of 2.5 billion crowns [more than $80 million]. We want to remove old production areas [and] old equipment since this year we plan to close two or three Skoda companies because we must [use] our money for technical development and production only in the core businesses."
So, as the politicians bicker in Prague, the country's heavy industry is learning to fend for itself in the new era.
The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty