|Friday, 29 May 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 79, 99-04-23
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 79, 23 April 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN TRADERS TO SUE GOVERNMENT OVER CASH REGISTER REGULATIONMakich Demirian, the chairman of the Armenian Union of Traders, told journalists in Yerevan on 22 April that the union is bringing legal action against the Armenian government for what it believes are serious violations during the process of introducing cash registers, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. In an attempt to prevent tax evasion, the government ruled in late 1998 that all companies with a working area of more than 30 square meters must input their retail sales and services into cash registers beginning February 1999. Demirian said this puts large businesses, whose number is estimated at 1,700, at a disadvantage compared with smaller traders. The traders' union will therefore demand that the law be extended to all businesses regardless of their size. Demirian said that some 600 businesses have been fined by the tax authorities for not complying with the government. Many of those fines were imposed before the introduction of such a penalty on 1 April. LF
 GEORGIAN AIR FORCE OFFICERS PROTEST NON-PAYMENT OF SALARIESSome 50 officers of Georgia's air force staged a protest on 21 April at the Makhata base, Caucasus Press and "Rezonansi" reported. "Rezonansi" said the officers were demanding payment of their salaries for the past seven months, improved living conditions, and free Tbilisi metro passes for themselves and their families. Caucasus Press quoted Defense Ministry official Giorgi Gogashvili as attributing the protest not only to wage arrears but to apprehension over possible redundancies during the forthcoming reorganization of the airforce. Gogashvili said that in 1998 his ministry paid only 70 percent of salaries and owes two months' wages for 1999. He blamed the Finance Ministry for not allocating the necessary funds. Gogashvili added that although the 1999 budget froze the ministry's debts until 2000, courts continue to rule in favor of companies that sue the ministry for not paying its bills. LF
 ABKHAZIA THREATENS TO PUT DETAINED GEORGIAN FISHING CREW ON TRIALCaucasus Press on 23 April quoted Abkhaz Prosecutor- General Anri Djergenia as saying that the nine crew members of a Georgian fishing trawler detained in Abkhaz territorial waters on 3 April will be put on trial next week unless agreement is reached on exchanging them for five Abkhaz held hostage in Georgia. The Abkhaz authorities released the one woman crew member last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 1999). LF
 KAZAKHSTAN'S EX-PREMIER CALLS FOR NEW ELECTION LAW...Speaking at a press briefing convened by RFE/RL in Washington on 22 April, Akezhan Kazhegeldin said that unless Kazakhstan enacts new election legislation, the parliamentary elections to be held later this year will not be free and fair, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. At present, the conduct of elections is stipulated by presidential decrees that have the force of law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 April 1999). Kazhegeldin said new election legislation is a key factor in promoting democratization in Kazakhstan. He predicted that his National Republican Party will be barred on a technicality from contesting the parliamentary elections, just as he was prevented from participating in the January 1999 presidential poll. Kazhegeldin added that Kazakhstan today is a country without a national identity, primarily because it lacks democratic institutions. LF
 ...AS ANTI-CORRUPTION CAMPAIGN CLAIMS NEW VICTIMSPremier Nurlan Balghymbaev convened a cabinet session on 22 April to assess implementation of presidential decrees and government measures aimed at combating corruption, RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported. One city deputy mayor and two regional Interior Ministry chiefs were arrested this week for financial irregularities. Last week, Deputy Finance Minister Zhomart Muqashev was detained on charges of abuse of his official position. LF
 KAZAKHSTAN HALTS RAIL CARGO TRAFFIC FROM UZBEKISTANKazakhstan has barred Uzbek freight trains from transiting its territory until Tashkent pays an $8 million transit debt, AFP reported on 21 April, quoting an unnamed Kazakh transport official. But Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan reached an agreement the same day whereby Kyrgyzstan will pay its $3.8 million transit debt to Kazakhstan by 1 May. Kazakhstan had stopped the transit across its territory of Kyrgyz rail traffic one week earlier. LF
 CZECH PREMIER VISITS KYRGYZSTANMilos Zeman and his Kyrgyz counterpart, Amangeldi Muraliev, met in Bishkek on 22 April and signed a declaration on the development of the interstate relations and a protocol on intergovernmental cooperation, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Zeman later noted the potential for expanded cooperation in food processing and transportation. He proposed that Kyrgyzstan adopt legislation on giving government guarantees for foreign investments in order to attract investments from the Czech Republic. According to Muraliev, an agreement between the two states on avoiding double taxation will be concluded soon. A number of cooperation agreements between Kyrgyz and Czech enterprises were also signed. Zeman also met with Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev to discuss bilateral relations. LF
 UN ENVOY CALLS FOR LEGALIZATION OF TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTIESUN Special Representative in Tajikistan Jan Kubis and the leader of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), Said Abdullo Nuri, met in Dushanbe on 21 April to assess implementation of the political and military protocols to the 1997 peace agreement, AP-Blitz reported the following day. While noting that 22 representatives of the UTO have been appointed to government posts, they expressed concern that no progress has been made to date in nominating opposition representatives to serve on regional and district councils. They agreed that the Committee for National Reconciliation, on which both government and UTO are represented, must complete new draft proposals on amending the constitution. President Imomali Rakhmonov had rejected most of the amendments proposed earlier. Kubis advocated that those opposition parties belonging to the UTO be legalized, together with their official publications. LF
 TURKMEN PRESIDENT SAYS WESTERN-STYLE DEMOCRACY INAPPROPRIATEAddressing Turkmenistan's National Institute for Democracy and Human Rights on 21 April, Saparmurat Niyazov said that Western-style democracy is incompatible with the Turkmen national mentality and with the Asian model of democracy, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reported the following day. He added that press censorship in Turkmenistan is necessary to preclude the publication of articles inciting interethnic hatred. Niyazov also said that he will not invite international observers to monitor elections in Turkmenistan, but nor will he prevent them from being monitoring the ballot. Also on 21 April, Niyazov ruled out the privatization of the country's major enterprises and said he will reject pressure from the EBRD to raise domestic prices for gasoline and diesel fuel, according to Reuters. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS MILOSEVIC 'READY FOR PEACE'Russian special envoy to Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin told Reuters in Moscow on 23 April that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is willing to allow an "international presence" into Kosova. Before returning from Belgrade the previous day, Chernomyrdin outlined his peace plan to ITAR- TASS. That plan foresees the safe return of displaced persons and refugees, the implementation of a humanitarian aid program, the resumption of negotiations on autonomy for Kosova, the withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosova and NATO forces from the border of Yugoslavia, an international economic reconstruction program for Yugoslavia, and an international presence in Kosova with the participation of Russian forces under the auspices of the UN. Chernomyrdin said that "what international organizations these will be remains to be discussed." He called his eight- hour long talks with Milosevic "not easy" but claimed he had achieved a "breakthrough." FS
 NATO COUNTRIES REMAIN SKEPTICAL...U.S. President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have rejected Milosevic's offer, saying it falls short of NATO demands, Reuters reported on 23 April. Chernomyrdin said in Moscow he will meet NATO leaders in Washington on 24 April. "The Guardian" quotes a French government spokesman as saying that the alliance must stick to its air campaign and not send in ground troops. Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema said in Rome that "the nature of [the proposed international] force is not clear, whether it would be military or civilian, and that's the point on which there is no agreement." German Deputy Foreign Minister Ludger Volmer told Germany's ARD television on 22 April that "when Milosevic appears to be making a concession in negotiations, it can be ambiguous.... It could be that this is one of the numerous feints that Milosevic has often used in the past." FS
 ...WHILE ANNAN 'ENCOURAGED'UN spokesman Fred Eckard said on 22 April in New York that Secretary- General Kofi Annan is "encouraged" by Chernomyrdin's initiative and "eagerly awaits the details of what was agreed." He stressed that he has no details beyond Chernomyrdin's statement but added that Annan will travel to Moscow next week "to explore these ideas further with the Russian authorities." Observers noted that Milosevic proved particularly difficult and duplicitous in negotiations on practical details during the Croatian and Bosnian wars. Meanwhile, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 23 April that Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze offered to act as a mediator between NATO and Moscow, following an earlier request by Russian officials. FS
 NATO TAKES 'MILOSEVISION' OFF THE AIRA NATO missile struck the main offices of Serbian state-run television (RTS) in Belgrade in the early hours of 23 April, killing at least10 people. At the moment of the attack, RTS was broadcasting an anti-NATO speech by Milosevic. The station went off the air for several hours and then broadcast a limited fare of news and patriotic videos. The BBC reported from the scene that RTS staff members believed that NATO would attack only transmitters and not the main studio complex. Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic called the attack "an act of barbarity." RTS is nicknamed "Milosevision" because it has long been the main vehicle for disseminating the president's views. Many observers believe that RTS and other nationalistic television broadcasters in the former Yugoslavia played a key role in fomenting ethnic hatred and fueling the conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosova. PM
 SERBIAN MINISTER VOWS REVENGESerbian Information Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who was a key figure behind the highly restrictive 1998 media law, told journalists at the RTS building that he holds Western leaders responsible for the attack on 23 April. Vucic said that "such criminals as Clinton and Blair could not have been born by any mother. Just punishment will reach them. They are the biggest criminals and beasts. By comparison, even [German dictator Adolf] Hitler was but a little child," AP quoted him as saying. PM
 BELGRADE HOLDS GERMAN JOURNALIST AS 'SPY'Germany's SAT-1 television reported on 23 April that Serbian authorities are holding SAT-1 journalist Pit Schnitzler on suspicion of espionage. Joerg Howe, who is Schnitzler's supervisor, called the charge "utter nonsense." He added that "this is a blatant attempt to quash independent critical reporting," dpa reported from Berlin. Schnitzler was last heard from on 16 April, when he traveled from Belgrade to the Serbian frontier with Croatia. PM
 PENTAGON SAYS AIR STRIKES HAVING EFFECTRear Admiral Thomas Wilson, who is the director of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Washington on 22 April that the air strikes have impaired Milosevic's ability to move or supply his troops. Wilson added that NATO's air "campaign is having an impact on the morale" of Yugoslav soldiers.... Desertion rates...are on the climb." Elsewhere in Washington, British Premier Blair said that "this is a just war based on good, decent values" and directed at stopping ethnic cleansing. PM
 WHAT ARE KOSOVA'S 'MYSTERIOUS TRAINS'?Kris Janowski, who is a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR), said in Geneva on 22 April that there have recently been what he dubbed "puzzling" movements of refugees along the border between Kosova and Macedonia. "Mysterious trains" of refugees have arrived from Ferizaj, with some being allowed to proceed into Macedonia and others turned back. "We don't understand what kind of game [the Serbian authorities] are playing," Janowski added. He called Kosova a "black hole," where the fate of thousands of displaced persons is unknown, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. PM
 UN: FORCED LABOR IN KOSOVAMary Robinson, who is the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in Geneva on 22 April that Serbian forces are using "thousands" of displaced Kosovars as forced labor in the area between Mitrovica and Gjakova. She quoted refugees as saying that Serbian forces killed those who refused to leave their homes in Gjakova. PM
 RELIEF WORKERS REACH STRANDED REFUGEESMacedonian police allowed officials of the UNHCR into the remote village of Malina on 22 April after UN officials "lobbied the Macedonian authorities at the highest level," Reuters reported. Macedonian police had already begun evacuating some of the several thousand Kosovars to nearby villages when the aid workers arrived. Up to 100 refugees had been living in each home in Malina, while some Kosovars slept in the open or with farm animals in sheds. A BBC reporter called the conditions in the village "medieval." Macedonian police barred aid convoys from the village for several days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 1999). They said that the path into Malina is not safe because it runs through 50 yards of Serbian territory. Refugees told UNHCR officials that they came illegally to Malina because Macedonian police refused to let them enter at a nearby border crossing and because Serbian troops threatened to shoot them if they returned to Kosova. PM
 MORE FIGHTING ALONG ALBANIA-KOSOVA BORDEROfficials at Albania's Public Order Ministry told an RFE/RL correspondent in Tirana that Yugoslav soldiers opened fire on the border post in Dobruna on 22 April, injuring an Albanian officer. An OSCE spokesman in Tirana told Reuters that a senior commander of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) was killed and four rebel soldiers wounded near Tropoja. Meanwhile in Washington, Albanian President Rexhep Meidani and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright agreed that Kosova must not be partitioned but placed under the control of an international protection force that can "guarantee the region's multi-ethnicity," Reuters reported. FS
 ALBANIA EVACUATES REFUGEES FROM BORDER REGIONInformation Minister Musa Ulqini told an RFE/RL correspondent in Tirana on 22 April that the authorities have evacuated 6,200 refugees from Kukes to other parts of Albania and will evacuate another 50,000 in the coming days. The total number of refugees in Albania has reached 360,000, of whom 110,000 are currently in Kukes. About 1,000 refugees arrived at the Morina border crossing on 22 April, saying they were on the road for eight days and beaten and robbed by Serbian police. Most of the refugees were from Mitrovica and Drenica. Some of them said that tens of thousands of Kosovars are trying to reach Albania but that Serbian forces have sent most of them back into the interior. They are now hiding in the hills. FS
 SLOVENIA OPEN TO NATO GROUND TROOPSA spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said in Ljubljana on 22 April that Slovenia will allow passage to NATO ground troops if asked. He stressed that it is Slovenia's duty as a member of the alliance's Partnership for Peace Program to permit transit. In Washington, Bosnian Foreign Minister Jadranko Prlic said that the "NATO operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina is proof of the ability of the international community to make and keep peace." He added that "it is up to the international community to decide what kind of operation" it wants to use in Kosova, AP reported. PM
 TENSIONS EASE AROUND PREVLAKA...Yugoslav Admiral Milan Zec and Montenegrin Interior Minister Vukasin Maras reached an agreement according to which Yugoslav troops and Montenegrin police will jointly man checkpoints inside Montenegro, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Podgorica on 22 April. At Debeli Brijeg, UN monitors said that some Yugoslav troops remain in the demilitarized zone but not on the border (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 1999).The monitors added that tensions have eased in the Prevlaka area. PM
 ...BUT NOT ELSEWHERE IN MONTENEGROYugoslav officials said in Belgrade on 22 April that foreign humanitarian aid cannot transit the Montenegrin port of Bar because the Montenegrin authorities have refused either to accept Belgrade's authority in the matter or to meet with Belgrade officials to set a policy. In Podgorica, Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic told a rally of some 10,000 supporters that the Montenegrin police must submit to the authority of the federal army. Elsewhere, Luigi Juncaj, who is minister for minority affairs, told Reuters that he wants members of ethnic minorities to stay put in Montenegro and not allow Belgrade to intimidate them into fleeing. PM
 TURKEY SAYS ROMANIA EXTRADITING SUSPECTED PKK MEMBERSThe semi-official Anatolia news agency reported on 22 April that Romania has extradited more than 30 people suspected of being members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the last four months. According to the news agency, the PKK is extremely active in Romania. PB
 MOLDOVAN TEACHERS ON STRIKETeachers at some 700 Moldovan schools went on strike on 22 April to demand the payment of back wages, ITAR-TASS reported. The leader of a teachers' union, Dmitri Ivanov, said the average teacher's salary in the country is 180 lei ($20) per month. He said some teachers have not been paid in eight or 10 months. Teachers have vowed to stay on strike until all wage arrears have been paid. The government owes about 100 million lei to teachers and has begun talks with union officials. In other news, Russian First Deputy Premier Vadim Gustov criticized Transdniestrian separatist leader Igor Smirnov after he refused to meet with Gustov by saying "the demeanor of [Smirnov] does not contribute to his reputation and is giving Russia the opportunity to take tougher and more decisive measures to solve [the Transdniestrian] problem," Russian Television reported on 22 April. PB
 BULGARIAN HIGH COURT RULES FAVORABLY ON NATO REQUESTThe Bulgarian Constitutional Court ruled on 22 April that parliamentary approval was not needed for every instance of a NATO plane overflying Bulgaria, Reuters reported. The 12- judge panel was unanimous in its decision. Bulgarian Premier Ivan Kostov said the parliament may vote next week on his offer to grant NATO a 110-140 kilometer zone along Bulgaria's western border for NATO overflights (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 1999). Hundreds of protesters rallied outside the parliament building on 22 April to protest plans to grant an air corridor to NATO. And a NATO missile inadvertently landed near the village of Babitsa, near the Yugoslav border, early on 23 April. No injuries were reported. PB
[C] END NOTE
 EU TO DEVELOP TIES WITH ALBANIA, MACEDONIABy Breffni O'Rourke
The EU is moving to develop special relationships with Albania and Macedonia to help protect those countries against the instability generated by the Kosova crisis.
Dirk Buda, a senior EU official in Brussels, told RFE/RL that proposals should be formalized by next month, with the prospect--for Albania at least- -of adoption by the EU before the end of the summer.
His comments follow pleas for swift EU support for those two countries following the inflow of hundreds of thousands of Kosovar refugees. Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said earlier this week that Tirana will request a formal association agreement with Brussels as a step toward full EU membership. He said normal criteria should not be applied and a faster route should be found to integrate Albania into Europe. Officials from Macedonia have expressed similar sentiments.
Brussels however, has its own ideas on the issue. One of its considerations is that the existing list of 10 candidate members from Central and East Europe should not be upset by hasty preferential treatment for "newcomer" countries like Albania and Macedonia. The 10 candidates are now undergoing difficult negotiations or a detailed screening process. Some- -notably Bulgaria--have already expressed impatience at the slow rate of progress toward membership.
With regard to Albania, Buda, said that forging an association agreement with Albania now would do more harm than good, because the country's economy and institutions would be unable to cope. He said a formal association agreement is a complicated document and must be ratified by all EU member states. It imposes rights and obligations on both sides, including economic ones. "Albania is basically not ready for a kind of association with the union," he argued. "This would, for instance, mean the prospect of free trade [and] the reduction of customs duties."
Buda says the EU already has a comprehensive aid package for Albania in place since 1997 and has developed it further since the Kosova crisis. He says the underdeveloped infrastructure of the country can hardly absorb more aid. Nevertheless, he says the EU is working on a so-called autonomous measure for Albania, "meaning that we are preparing a council regulation which would be adopted and would grant Albania trade preference for instance. The idea for the time being is to upgrade the trade regime."
Buda says that the existing EU-Albania cooperation agreement is sparse in its provisions on trade, and Albania does not receive the preferential economic treatment accorded Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose products receive almost duty-free entry into the EU. An envisaged regulation would grant similar trade preferences to Albania and permit duty- free access to the entire EU market for Albanian industrial products and textiles (the Albanian textile industry is considered to have reasonable prospects within the EU). That regulation is to be prepared by May, for subsequent adoption by the EU, and could be ready for implementation by August.
Turning to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Buda sees it as more able to cope with some type of association with the EU. Macedonia, he argues, "is comparable with Bulgaria at the time [the latter] got the Europe [association] agreement, so there is certainly an economic ground, a sound basis for an association with FYROM, independent of the political arguing."
Buda says Macedonia faces the "classical" transition problems found in the region and is also disadvantaged by heavy dependence on trade and transport links with Serbia, which are now being disrupted. That makes Macedonia harder hit economically than Albania, although it has better organized industrial and agricultural sectors.
Buda expects rapid forward movement on some form of association for Macedonia. But he cautioned that this agreement might fall short of the association agreement, known as Europe agreement, currently enjoyed by countries like Bulgaria and Romania. The EU, he stresses, is aware of the impatience among existing candidate countries, which already have been waiting years for membership and doubtless have more years to wait. He argues that "to accept more and more people in the waiting room would create frustration.
Buda says current thinking in the EU Executive Commission is that it would be better to create a type of technical association for newcomers, without the perspective of accession as EU members.
The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent based in Prague.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty