|Sunday, 17 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 136, 98-07-17
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 136, 17 July 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 YELTSIN WANTS PEACEKEEPERS TO STAY IN ABKHAZIARussian President Yeltsin wrote to the Federation Council on 16 July requesting that the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia be prolonged, ITAR-TASS reported. The force's mandate expires on 31 July. Yeltsin argued that the peacekeepers are "the only real force that ensures a stable cease- fire and conditions for a political settlement." He added that their withdrawal could "cause an explosion not only in the region but possibly in the whole of the Caucasus." Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba told Interfax on 16 July that if the Russian peacekeepers are withdrawn, Abkhaz units will occupy the 12 kilometer security zone currently patrolled by the Russian force and advance to the Inguri River, which forms the border. LF
 GEORGIAN GUERRILLAS DENY TARGETING PEACEKEEPERSA Russian Defense Ministry spokesman told ITAR-TASS on 16 July that leaflets signed by the Georgian guerrilla "White Legion" and containing threats against the peacekeeping force have been found in the 12 kilometer security zone. Also on 16 July, White Legion leaders rejected the accusation by Colonel-General Sergei Korobko, the commander of the peacekeeping force, that the legion planted the land mine that killed five peacekeepers in Abkhazia's Gali Raion on12 July. LF
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT UNDERGOES SURGERYEduard Shevardnadze was hospitalized on 16 July for minor surgery, Georgian and Russian agencies reported. Shevardnadze's press secretary, Vakhtang Abashidze, told ITAR-TASS that the 40-minute operation involved destroying a "medium-sized" kidney stone. Abashidze said Shevardnadze "is feeling well, perfect" after the surgery. He denied a Caucasus Press report that the operation was to remove a prostate adenoma. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION HEAD SAYS NO MORE CONCESSIONSRamiz Mekhtiev told a press conference in Baku on 16 July that the country's leadership will not meet the remaining conditions laid down by opposition political parties for their participation in the 11 October presidential election, Turan reported. The opposition is demanding that criminal charges against former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev and Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar be dropped and that the opposition be allowed to select half the members of the Central Electoral Commission. Mekhtiev said that six of the 24 seats on that commission have been reserved for nominees from two opposition parties. Mekhtiev added that up to 300 international observers are expected to monitor the poll. LF
 STRAINS IN AZERBAIJANI-TURKISH RELATIONSThe Azerbaijani Embassy in Ankara has issued a statement expressing "dissatisfaction" over former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev's presence in Turkey, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 17 July. The statement said that "Guliev is taking advantage of Turkish hospitality and using Istanbul as a base to harm the friendship between the two countries." In other news, the Azerbaijani Arbitration Court has confiscated assets belonging to the Turkish trade and construction firm DHT, which owes $7 million in taxes dating back to 1995, Turan reported on 16 July. DHT claims it signed contracts with the International and National Banks of Azerbaijan exempting the company from taxes. LF
 NIYAZOV CONGRATULATES FARMERS ON HARVESTTurkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov opened a 16 July session of the People's Council by congratulating farmers on this year's grain harvest, which totals 1.24 million tons, Russian media reported. "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" noted that this year's harvest is 20 times larger than during the last years of the Soviet Union. Niyazov also raised the retirement age by two years to 62 for men and 57 for women. He noted that Russia's proposal to repay more than 70 percent of its $107 million debt through goods is "unacceptable," saying Turkmenistan's economy "needs hard currency." And he said that it is time to declare war on drug trafficking, which he called the country's "problem number one." BP
 KYRGYZ GROUPS APPEAL RULING ALLOWING AKAYEV TO RUN AGAIN FOR PRESIDENTThe leaders of 10 political parties, movements, and non-government organizations have appealed to the Constitutional Court asking it to overturn its 13 July decision to allow President Askar Akayev to run again for office. Akayev has been elected in popular votes twice (in 1991 and 1995). The constitution states that one person may serve a maximum of two terms, but the court ruled that since the country adopted a new constitution in 1993, Akayev has been elected only once under current legislation. BP
 DEMONSTRATORS ARRESTED IN KYRGYZSTANKyrgyz police on 16 July arrested 47 people who had staged a demonstration outside the government building in Bishkek since 13 July, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The demonstrators came from the village of Masy in Jalalabad Oblast and were protesting the delay in receiving plots of land from the government. BP
 KAZAKH COMMITTEE SEEKS TO DISBAND MONOPOLIESThe Kazakh Committee responsible for regulating natural monopolies and ensuring fair competition has begun reviewing tariffs charged by the country's large companies, Interfax reported on 16 July. Committee chairman Nikolai Radostovets told a press conference in Astana that the national oil company, Kazakhoil, has increased the price of oil it supplies to refineries, despite a 17 percent decrease in the price of petroleum on world markets since the beginning of this year. Radostovets said the company "needs to be de-monopolized." Other companies under review are Intergaz Central Asia, Kazakhtransoil, the railroad company Temir Zholy, Kazakhtelekom, and Almaty Power Consolidated. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 NANO SAYS KOSOVA CRISIS THREATENS ALBANIA'S STABILITYPrime Minister Fatos Nano told his national security advisers on 16 July that the international community has not been able to come to grips quickly with the crisis in Kosova and that its failure to act will place a great burden on his government, "at least for the medium- term." He added that the refugees in particular will place a strain on the state budget, Reuters reported. He said that whereas 13,000 refugees are officially registered, the real number of refugees could be as high as 20,000. Nano urged Kosovar leaders to set up a single representative institution and speak with only one voice to the outside world. He warned that their failure to do so would work to the advantage of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. The prime minister concluded that "all these factors increase the danger to Albania's stability and threaten the work we are doing to rebuild." PM
 SERBIAN POLICE BREAK UP KOSOVAR PARLIAMENTSome 90 members of the Kosovar shadow-state legislature attended its first session in eight years in Prishtina on 16 July. Deputies took an oath of loyalty to the shadow state and elected a speaker. Police then arrived and told the legislators to hand over any documents and to disperse. The deputies left peacefully, and police took away several boxes of documents. Kosovar President Ibrahim Rugova called the session a success and told Reuters: "we have done it." One legislator added: "it is a very historic day, marking the start of a new free, democratic and independent state of Kosova." Some observers noted, however, that the meeting may prove to be too little, too late, since the government does not represent all political parties and has been steadily losing influence among Kosovars to the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) in recent months. PM
 ANNAN WANTS MORE TROOPS FOR MACEDONIAUN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on 16 July in New York that the world organization should add 350 soldiers to the current 800 who make up the UN peace-keeping operation in Macedonia (UNPREDEP). He also called for extending UNPREDEP's mandate by another six months, which would be until February 1999. Annan said that the force is stretched too thin to be able to monitor effectively Macedonia's borders with Albania and Yugoslavia. UNPREDEP is the first mission in UN history that seeks to prevent a conflict from spreading rather than keeping the peace in a war- torn area. PM
 MONTENEGRO HAS NEW GOVERNMENTSome 47 deputies in the 78-member legislature on 16 July approved the new cabinet of Filip Vujanovic, an ally of reformist President Milo Djukanovic. Supporters of pro-Milosevic Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic boycotted the session. Vujanovic promised to promote economic reforms and criticized Milosevic's efforts to curb Montenegro's autonomy. He said that "the destiny of Montenegro and its citizens can be decided only in Montenegro.... We cannot give up Montenegrin statehood, national identity, tradition, and culture." The government represents a coalition of anti-Milosevic parties and includes representatives of the ethnic Albanian minority. PM
 BOSNIAN PRIME MINISTER BLAMES FOREIGNERS FOR REFUGEE DELAYBosnian federal Prime Minister Edhem Bicakcic told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service in a telephone interview on 16 July that refugees are currently returning to many parts of the mainly Muslim and Croatian federation. He added, however, that the number of Croats and Serbs who have returned to Muslim-controlled Sarajevo remains too low. Bicakcic said that a major problem preventing refugees from going home is that the international community has not fulfilled its promises to construct houses and apartments. He singled out the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the European Commission for special criticism. Bicakcic charged that some unnamed foreigners "deliberately find excuses" for delaying promised aid. PM
 CROATIAN OPPOSITION TO UNITE?Vlado Gotovac, the leader of the Liberal Party, told Reuters on 16 July that chances are good that opposition parties will form a coalition and defeat President Franjo Tudjman. "We are trying to find a joint political platform with which we would present ourselves at the elections and a program that we would make sure we fully implement once the elections are over." Gotovac said that the laws governing elections and the media must be changed if Croatia is to become a truly democratic country. He added that there is no chance of reforming that legislation so long as the HDZ remains in power. Observers noted that the failure of the opposition to close ranks has been a major factor in the HDZ's maintaining its grip on power since 1990. Legislative elections are due by October 1999 and a presidential vote in 2002. PM
 BAD YEAR FOR CROATIAN TOURISMA drop in the number of foreign tourists may have a significant effect on the government's projected figures for economic growth in 1998, "Vecernji list" reported on 16 July. Two main tourist areas--Istria and Dalmatia -- report declines of 22 percent and 11 percent, respectively, in the number of visitors in the first days of July, compared with the same period in 1997. The crisis in Kosova and the World Cup in France may have prompted some potential visitors not to go to Croatia, but the main reason for the drop is that prices have risen without a corresponding increase in the quality of services. Expanding privatization is the key to reviving tourism, Reuters wrote. Government experts had projected a 15 percent growth in the number of tourists this year. Tourism and remittances from Croatian workers abroad are Croatia's two main traditional sources of hard- currency income. PM
 ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT ORDERS INVESTIGATION INTO INVESTMENT COMPANIESThe government on 16 July authorized pyramid-scheme investigator Farudin Arapi to audit the records of another eight investment firms. They include one of Albania's largest companies, namely 2K, which is owned by businessman Koco Kokedhima. Independent legislator Nikolle Lesi recently urged the government to investigate 2K, and he published a series of articles in his daily, "Koha Jone," in which he called 2K a pyramid scheme. Some observers charged that Lesi's motive was to get rid of a competitor. Kokedhima's daily, "Shekulli," lowered its sales price to one-fifth of that of "Koha Jone" in May and quickly tripled its circulation to 17,000. "Koha Jone's" circulation during the same period fell from more than 20,000 to 9, 000 copies. Also on 16 July, 70 legislators endorsed Lesi's proposed draft law to ban publishers from selling newspapers below production costs. FS
 CONSTANTINESCU MEETS WITH CLINTONRomanian President Emil Constantinescu met with his U.S. counterpart, Bill Clinton, in Washington on 16 July and praised the expanding ties between the two countries, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Talks in the White House focused on bilateral relations, regional cooperation, security in southeastern Europe, and Bucharest's aspirations to join NATO. Clinton said that Romania's general progress has been "very impressive," but he did not elaborate. Constantinescu urged U.S. businesses to expand investments in Romania. He is due to meet with Defense Secretary William Cohen on 17 July. PB
 ROMANIA TO INVESTIGATE MISSING PRIVATIZATION REVENUESRomanian Prime Minister Radu Vasile requested on 16 July that Privatization Minister Sorin Dimitriu investigate revenue shortfalls from the sale of state assets, Reuters reported. Vasile asked for the investigation after an official report showed that $160 million in revenues are missing from privatization sales. PB
 MOLDOVAN DEPUTIES APPROVE NEW BUDGETThe Moldovan parliament on 16 July passed a more austere 1998 budget but rejected a new tax on bread and milk, Reuters reported. Communist deputies left the chamber before the vote to protest the revised budget, which they called "anti-social." The previous budget, passed before parliamentary elections in March, was based on unrealized projections. Valeriu Muravschi, chairman of the parliament's budget commission, said Moldova needs to accelerate reforms and increase tax collection in order to deal with a "very complicated" economic situation. PB
 TRANSDNIESTER AUTHORITIES TO CLOSE ROMANIAN- LANGUAGE SCHOOLThe Tiraspol City Council said on 15 July that the only secondary school in the city to offer instruction in Romanian will lose its license to operate in November, Infotag reported. Ion Iovchev, the director of the school, said that it is alleged to have broken Transdniester laws on education and "languages spoken in Transdniester." PB
 BULGARIAN ARMY ANNOUNCES PERSONNEL CUTSColonel General Mikho Mikhov, the head of the Bulgarian army's General Staff, announced on 16 July that more than 1,000 officers will be cut from the armed forces, Bulgarian Radio reported. Mikhov said that by 2000 the army will be reduced to 85,000 men, of whom 20,000 will be officers. Mikhov said the planned cuts are being made to conform to NATO standards. In other news, the Interior Ministry said that seven policemen were arrested on 16 July for accepting bribes from international drug traffickers, AP reported. Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev said the policemen will be fired and prosecuted. PB
 MALFUNCTION AT BULGARIAN NUCLEAR PLANTOperators said that a technical "malfunction" at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant caused radiation levels at the facility to double, AP reported on 16 July. The failure occurred at one of the plant's four older reactors. The Bulgarian government has spent tens of millions of dollars to upgrade the plant in the past several years and rejects calls by the EU to turn off the reactors. PB
[C] END NOTE
 POLAND'S UNREGULATED TRADE WITH NEIGHBORS DECLINESby Jan de Weydenthal
Unregulated cross-border trade, once the mainstay of commercial relations between many Central and East European countries, is declining.
That development was perhaps inevitable, given changes in the economies of the region. But it also reflects conscious moves by various governments to introduce stable rules into commercial activities, to tax profits, and to control the flow of currencies between countries.
The result has been a shift toward wholesale, large- scale operations between big companies. This, however, adversely affects the interests of many small businesses and numerous individuals throughout the region.
The apogee of the unleashed cross-border commerce was in the years 1994- 1996, following revolutionary upheavals in Eastern Europe and the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union.
The activity focused on Poland, the crossing point between the Germans, the Russians, the Lithuanians, the Belarusians, the Ukrainians, the Slovaks, and the Czechs. It led to the establishment of large, mostly private trading centers--the bazaars--on all Polish borders as well as in the country's center.
To illustrate the economic magnitude of this activity, it is sufficient to note that by 1997, the turnover of the 15 largest bazaars reached an officially confirmed figure equivalent to some $2.2 billion, with unofficial estimates putting that figure 25 percent higher.
More than half of the turnover came from the export of Polish-made products. In this way, the bazaar commerce, partly untaxed and unregulated, was a major source of Poland's export earnings. More than 120,000 people were employed last year by the 15 largest bazaars, while hundreds of thousands profited from businesses linked with the commercial activity itself (suppliers, hotels, restaurants, travel companies, and so forth).
According to a recent study by the Polish Institute of Market Research (IBGR), the scope and volume of trade at almost all bazaars have been declining during the last two years. And the institute says this decline is not only likely to continue but will almost certainly accelerate. This assessment is shared by the traders themselves.
The IBGR says that the decline has been prompted by economic changes in Poland and the neighboring countries. The Polish currency, the zloty, has been gradually gaining strength in relation to both the U. S. dollar and the German mark. This strength has also been a factor in the rapidly declining value of the Russian and Belarusian rubles as well as the Ukrainian hryvna. As a result, Polish products have become more and more expensive for the country's eastern neighbors.
At the same time, there has been growing demand for better and more sophisticated products, which can hardly be supplied by small firms catering to traditional bazaar clientele.
The IBGR says that policy decisions by several governments constitute another factor affecting trade. Belarus has introduced a steep duty on imported furniture, for example, while Russia has imposed higher duties on imports of almost all foreign-made products. Poland, meanwhile, enacted a law last year making it more difficult for Easterners to enter the country.
Recent figures on cross-border travel confirm the trend: a 37 percent decline on both the Polish-Russian (Kaliningrad) and the Polish-Belarusian borders. The Lithuanian and Ukrainian crossings have been less affected, but the trend is downward there as well.
The decline in the bazaar commerce has been particularly painful for small businesses and individual traders. They have constituted a large majority of suppliers (the IBGR estimates that about 65 percent of products sold at the bazaars came from small or medium- sized firms).
Public protests have been staged in Poland, Belarus, and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad this year. But to no avail. The downward trend continues.
By contrast, large scale, tax-paying, and strictly regulated supermarkets and department stores are likely to profit from that trend. Networks of such supermarkets have recently appeared in the eastern parts of Germany, in Poland, and in border regions of the Czech Republic. There is every reason to assume that more will appear.
The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty