|Monday, 20 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 61, 99-03-29
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 61, 29 March 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER, FORMER CP FIRST SECRETARY TO FORM ELECTION ALLIANCE?Galust Sahakian, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) which is headed by Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian, told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 26 March that the HHK and the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK) will "most probably" declare a joint list of candidates for the 30 May parliamentary elections. That party was founded last year by former Communist Party First Secretary Karen Demirchian. Sargsian has demonstrated respect for Demirchian since last year's presidential election campaign, in which Demirchian lost in the runoff to Robert Kocharian. Demirchian has not confirmed Sahakian's statement. LF
 RUSSIA AGAIN HINTS AT SHIFT ON KARABAKH MEDIATIONRussian Deputy Foreign Minister Leonid Drachevskii told journalists in Yerevan on 27 March that as one of the three co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group, Russia is prepared to amend the most recent draft peace plan for Nagorno-Karabakh in order to "find a normal solution acceptable to all parties," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic have endorsed that plan, which advocates that Azerbaijan and Karabakh create a "common state," but Azerbaijan has rejected it. Visiting Baku four days earlier, Drachevskii had similarly assured Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev that Moscow will no longer insist that the "common state" model be used as the only one for mediating a solution to the conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March 1999). Karabakh Foreign Minister Naira Melkumian, who together with her Armenian counterpart, Vartan Oskanian, met with Drachevskii in Yerevan, said she does not believe Russia favors more concessions to Baku. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT AMENDS LAW ON MILITARY SERVICELawmakers on 26 March voted to raise the maximum age for military service from 26 to 27, Interfax reported. They also abolished the previously existing exemption from the draft for only sons and for the sons of persons killed in the Karabakh war or during the Soviet army intervention in Baku in January 1990. LF
 AZERBAIJAN DENIES CONDEMNING NATO STRIKESThe press service of the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry issued a statement on 27 March denying that Defense Minister Safar Abiev had appended his signature to the statement condemning NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia adopted two days earlier at the CIS defense ministers' meeting in Moscow, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 1999). LF
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT PAYS TRIBUTE TO PREDECESSORIn his weekly radio broadcast on 29 March, Eduard Shevardnadze spoke against ignoring the role of any Georgian politician who contributed to the restoration of Georgia's independent status, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze singled out the 31 March 1991 referendum, organized by the late Zviad Gamsakhurdia, as having made an important contribution to that process. In that referendum, the majority of the Georgian population voted for the restoration of independence. Gamsakhurdia, who died on 1 January 1994, would have celebrated his 60th birthday on 31 March. LF
 LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN VISITS GEORGIAVytautas Landsbergis held talks in Tbilisi on 25-26 March with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze, and parliamentary chairman Zurab Zhvania, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze thanked Lithuania for supporting Georgia in its quest for full membership in the Council of Europe. Landsbergis expressed Lithuania's interest in gaining observer status with the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization and in participating in joint economic and transport projects. He mentioned specifically the TRACECA project to revive the "Silk Road" and the export of Caspian oil via Lithuania. LF
 UN MILITARY MISSION TO RESUME OPERATIONS IN GORNO-BADAKHSHANThe UN observer mission in Tajikistan has carried out two inspection missions to the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Republic of Tajikistan and will resume operations there shortly, AP-Blitz reported from Dushanbe on 26 March. The UN suspended operations in Gorno-Badakshan last year following the murder last summer of three mission members and their driver in the region. Also on 26 March, the Tajik Supreme Court handed down death sentences to three former opposition fighters found guilty of those murders, Interfax reported. LF
 TURKMENISTAN MOVES TO DEREGULATE HOUSING MARKETPresident Saparmurat Niyazov has signed a resolution empowering the Ashgabat mayor's office to sell state-owned apartments to individuals and legal entities, including foreigners, Interfax reported on 26 March. The resolution also allows government banks to offer long-term loans to Turkmen citizens for the purpose of purchasing houses or apartments. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 REFUGEES REPORT 'ETHNIC CLEANSING'Consistent but unconfirmed reports by refugees arriving in Albania and Macedonia over the 26-28 March weekend suggest that Serbian security forces and paramilitaries have launched a systematic campaign of "ethnic cleansing" in much of northern and western Kosova, including Prishtina. Many refugees said that armed Serbs told them to leave their homes at short notice, robbed them, and then looted and burned the Kosovars' homes. The refugees added that many other Kosovars are too frightened to leave their homes to flee. The displaced persons noted that armed Serbs have looted shops in Prishtina and in provincial towns. Some refugees said Peja is deserted and on fire. Many Serbian residents of Prishtina put special stickers on their doors, Austrian Radio reported on 27 March. Serbian forces have targeted Kosovar intellectuals for execution and used women and children as human shields, the BBC noted. Unconfirmed reports put the death toll as running into the hundreds. PM
 NATO SAYS 'DARK THINGS HAPPENING' IN KOSOVAA spokesman for the Atlantic alliance said in Brussels on 27 March that "dark things are happening" in the Serbian province. He added that NATO is monitoring developments on the ground closely and passing information regarding possible war crimes to the Hague-based tribunal. German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping told ZDF Television on 28 March that "genocide is starting" in Kosova. British Defense Secretary George Robertson noted in London the previous day that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has sent paramilitary leader Zeljko Raznatovic "Arkan" to Kosova, "which tells us [all we] need to know about [Milosevic's] true intentions." Robertson added that Serbian artillery has "obliterated" many Kosovar villages. Prime Minister Tony Blair noted that NATO attacks are the "only way" to stop repression in Kosova. The BBC stressed that Serbian forces are "killing Albanians for the sake of killing Albanians." Arkan told German NTV on 29 March that his message to the world is: "Don't quarrel with Serbs, ever." PM
 NATO MOVES TO 'PHASE TWO'In response to the increased Serbian attacks on Kosovar civilians, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana announced in Brussels on 27 March that the alliance's aircraft will begin attacking Serbian armor and artillery units operating in Kosova. The first such sorties began the following night, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. On 26 March, NATO aircraft shot down two Yugoslav MiG 29s over northeastern Bosnia. The following day, a Yugoslav helicopter entered Bosnian airspace "with hostile intent," a NATO spokesman in Sarajevo said. He added that Yugoslav violations of Bosnian airspace "are a clear threat" to peace and stability in that republic. Near Belgrade, a U.S. "Stealth" bomber crashed, but it is unclear whether Serbian forces shot it down or whether it crashed because of mechanical failure. A special U.S. military unit rescued the downed pilot and returned him to base in Italy. In Macedonia, NATO tanks patrolled the border with Kosova and NATO aircraft flew in Macedonian airspace. PM
 REFUGEE CRISIS UNFOLDING IN AND AROUND KOSOVAA NATO spokesman said in Brussels on 28 March that the alliance puts the number of refugees at more than 500,000, adding that the figure is increasing rapidly. Deputy Prime Minister Ilir Meta said in Tirana the following day that more than 60,000 refugees fleeing the recent fighting in Kosova have entered Albania. Serbian authorities reopened the border crossings at Qafe Prushi and Padesh in order to accelerate the flow of refugees, dpa reported. Most of the refugees are exhausted women, children, and elderly people. Many said that armed Serbs separated them from the men, whose whereabouts they do not know. "Several thousand refugees" from Peja and western Kosova have arrived in Montenegro, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Refugees in Albania told the BBC that Serbian border guards took license plates and passports away from them, saying "you will never be allowed to return. " FS
 ALBANIA WANTS NATO GROUND TROOPSMeta, who heads the government's refugee committee, told the BBC on 29 March that "NATO ground troops...are indispensable in order to stop this genocide." President Rexhep Meidani told Reuters the previous day that it is imperative to step up NATO operations and to "consider all forms of intervention on the ground in Kosova." Meidani also said that the government has sent 300 buses to Kukes to help transport the refugees to various parts of Albania. The Kukes and Has district authorities have said they will be able to accommodate up to 3,000 people each in transit centers. Information Minister Musa Ulqini on 28 March repeated the government's call for urgent foreign aid, dpa reported. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Pandeli Majko said that the U.S. has promised $8.5 million in assistance, AP reported. FS
 UCK CALLS ON KOSOVARS TO STAYKosova Liberation Army (UCK) leader Hashim Thaci urged ethnic Albanians on 28 March not to leave Kosova. Thaci said on Albanian public television: "Do not fall prey to panic. Do not abandon your ancient homes. We have no other homeland." He told refugees to "go to the territories under the control of the UCK," Reuters reported. Meanwhile, an OSCE spokesman told AP that Yugoslav forces fired 20 artillery rounds into the Albanian border police station in Kamenica, near Tropoja, on 27 March. And near Kukes, an Albanian border commander told Reuters that Serbian and Albanian border guards exchanged fire for three hours on 28 March. FS
 CLINTON, ALLIES TO PRESS AHEAD ON KOSOVAPresident Bill Clinton issued a statement in Washington on 28 March saying that "in the last 24 hours, I have been in close contact with key NATO allies, including Prime Minister Blair, [French] President [Jacques] Chirac, [German] Chancellor [Gerhard] Schroeder, and [Italian] Prime Minister [Massimo] D'Alema. All of them share our determination to respond strongly to Mr. Milosevic's continuing campaign of inhumane violence against the Kosovar Albanian people. That is what we intend to do." PM
 ALBRIGHT APPEALS TO SERBSSecretary of State Madeleine Albright said in a broadcast in Serbo-Croatian on 26 March that "NATO's objective is not to harm innocent Serbs but to stop the attacks [in Kosova]. We ask Serbia's leaders to do now what they promised last fall--end the fighting and reduce their military presence" in the province, she added. "The sooner a peace agreement is reached, the sooner your isolation can end--and the sooner our peoples can work together again to build prosperity, democracy and, above all, peace," Albright noted. She also told her listeners that the Serbian government has not fully informed them about the terms of the Rambouillet peace accords, which Belgrade refuses to sign. PM
 MILOSEVIC SLAMS NATOMilosevic told visiting Ukrainian officials in Belgrade on 27 March that NATO air strikes against Serbian targets are "the worst threat to peace since 1945." He also called the strikes "a criminal act against peace and freedom," state-run television reported. Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic said on 28 March that "genocide is being carried out [in the province] only against the Serbs," Deutsche Welle reported. A Serbian spokesman told the BBC that the refugees are fleeing because they are afraid of NATO air strikes. PM
 MONTENEGRO STEERS OWN COURSEThe Foreign Ministry in Podgorica said in a statement on 27 March that the Belgrade authorities did not consult or inform Montenegro about the recent decision to break diplomatic relations with several key NATO countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 1999). The statement added that Montenegro does not consider itself bound by the decision. The previous day, the parliament adopted a resolution that "obliges all parties in the parliament and state bodies to work to preserve domestic peace as well as political, religious, and ethnic tolerance in Montenegro," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
 BOSNIAN CROAT DEPUTY MINISTER DIESFederal Deputy Interior Minister Jozo Leutar died in Sarajevo on 28 March as the result of injuries he sustained in a car bomb attack on 16 March. Police are still seeking to identify the killer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 March 1999). PM
 ROMANIAN PREMIER HOSPITALIZED AFTER HEART ATTACKRadu Vasile, who was hospitalized on 26 March following a "mild heart attack," has designated Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica, one of his two deputies, to "coordinate" the government's activities in his absence, a government spokesman announced the next day. President Emil Constantinescu, who has spoken with Vasile, said the latter's state of health "does not make it necessary to nominate an interim premier." Vasile is likely to be discharged at the end of the week, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
 ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER REJECTS KOSOVA CRITICISMAndrei Plesu told journalists on 26 March that media reports and opposition criticism of the government's stand on Kosova are "distorting reality," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Plesu said it is "incomprehensible" to claim support for Euro-Atlantic integration and at the same time distance oneself from the strikes, which, he said, were provoked by Yugoslav President Milosevic's "suicidal stubbornness." Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Elena Zamfirescu said the following day that Romania intends to ask Yugoslavia not to draft ethnic Romanians into the army. And before he was hospitalized, Vasile said Romania is ready to accept some 3,000-4,000 refugees. Romanian Radio reported on 29 March that 45 people have crossed the Serbian border. MS
 TRANSDNIESTER COSSACKS READY TO VOLUNTEER FOR YUGOSLAVIAAn organization representing Cossacks who fought on the side of the Tiraspol separatists in the 1992 clashes announced on 26 March that it is ready to send volunteers to Yugoslavia to help in the "unequal struggle against the aggressors," Infotag reported. In a separate protest, the Transdniester Union of [Retired] Commissioned and Non-Commissioned Officers" warned that Moldova intends to "solve the Transdniester problem" using NATO's "Yugoslav blueprint." On 26 March, several dozen people took part in a demonstration outside the U.S. embassy in Chisinau that was organized by the Communists. Police detained six demonstrators who had vandalized a police van. MS
 KOSTOV AGAIN DENIES NATO USES BULGARIAN AIR SPACEAddressing the parliament on 26 March, Premier Ivan Kostov denied NATO aircraft have been using Bulgarian air space during the alliance's strikes against Yugoslavia. Kostov was responding to local media reports that NATO aircraft flew over Bulgaria on 25-26 March. He said that two NATO planes flew "within 3-5 kilometers from the border, inside Yugoslav air space," BTA reported. Also on 26 March, some 10,000 people participated in a demonstration in Sofia against the strikes. The rally was organized by the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party. On 27 March, Deputy Foreign Minister Marin Raikov conveyed "Bulgaria's concern" to the U.S. embassy after debris from an air-to-air missile fired by NATO airplanes landed in Bulgaria. MS
[C] END NOTE
 TIRANA'S KIOSKS: A MIRROR OF SOCIAL CHANGEby Fabian Schmidt
In January, the Tirana municipal authorities launched a campaign to remove several thousand unlicensed buildings housing small shops and cafes, dubbed "kiosks" by the locals, from the cityís sidewalks and parks. Most people have welcomed this step, which is designed to win back public space from small-sized businesses. They hope that central Tiranaís former parks and green areas will be restored to their former splendor, having made way for an unsightly labyrinth of cafes, restaurants, shops, and casinos. At the same time, many are concerned that closing down the kiosks will have a negative impact on the economy since the population will be denied the opportunity to ply a trade, unless, that is, the government provides alternatives for them to do so.
Thousands of families are directly or indirectly dependent on the incomes from the kiosk economy, which developed quickly and in an unregulated manner after the end of communism. Today's Tirana is the only European capital without a single supermarket. The kiosks, together with the city's open markets, provide all manner of consumer goods. (The city's only short-lived supermarket belonged to a pyramid investment scheme and was forced to close after the scheme's collapse in 1997.)
At the same time, some owners replaced their kiosks, which were originally built of light materials such as wood or metal, with solid concrete constructions up to three stories high, thus mirroring Tirana's chaotic urban development. Some of these buildings may be architectonically unsound: observers have warned of a possible catastrophe in the event of an earthquake, since many of the "kiosks" do not have proper foundations.
The kiosks in central Tiranaís parks, however, are only part of the problem of illegal buildings in the capital. Since the end of communism in 1992, Tirana has seen rapid growth, with its population soaring from an estimated 400,000 to more than 700,000 as a result of migration from the countryside in the face of growing poverty. In the northwestern part of the city, newcomers--mostly from the northern regions of Bajram Curri and Kukes--have built virtually an entire city of ramshackle houses, which the older citizens of the capital call "New Kukes."
At the same time, a large number of migrant workers in Italy and Greece came back from those countries to build family homes that often also house small workshops or other enterprises. But many built their houses before receiving a building license. The main problem of obtaining such licenses are ongoing ownership disputes and the slow pace of work of the judiciary, which is widely believed to be prone to corruption.
Many Albanians blame Tiranaís chaotic and often unregulated urban development on the countryís lack of effective government. But others point out that one of the government's priorities since the collapse of communism has been to promote free market activities and to encourage trade. Albania, in 1992, urgently needed to create jobs, trade, and the foundations of a functioning economy. The development of the "kiosk economy," therefore, appeared beneficial, if not essential, for the countryís recovery. Seven years later, priorities have changed. The government is now trying to win back the public space it has lost to the entrepreneurs, and by doing so, it is hoping to increase the quality of life in the city.
However, it will be impossible to tear down all of the more than 4,000 illegal buildings throughout the city. Most difficult to remove will be the kiosks in the central Youth Park, across from the Mussolini-era Dajti Hotel, and the buildings along the tiny Lana River. The Youth Park is Tiranaís largest single area filled with kiosks, including several concrete buildings, many of which belong to influential businessmen. All of them are ordered closed by the summer.
The municipal authorities have not yet taken a decision regarding the buildings along the Lana River. Almost the entire course of the river, which runs through the city, is lined with houses that have no proper sewerage system. The bulk of the houses belong to poorer families, including many Roma. The municipality has so far indicated that it will order the destruction of some houses close to where the river crosses the city's main boulevard. But, as in the case of most illegal buildings in Tirana, they will likely continue to tolerate those farther away from the city center.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty