|Sunday, 25 February 2018|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 82, 99-04-28
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 82, 28 April 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 NEW ARMENIAN CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION CHAIRMAN NAMEDAt its first session on 27 April, the new Central Electoral Commission voted to elect as its chairman Artak Sahradian, who is a senior Social Security Ministry official, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF
 CORRECTION:"RFE/RL Newsline" on 27 April incorrectly reported that five political parties and blocs are represented on the Central Electoral Commission. The correct figure is 10, five representing the factions in the present parliament and the remaining five by those parties and blocs that collected the largest number of signatures in their support.
 ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS MEETRobert Kocharian and Heidar Aliev met for two hours at the U.S. State Department on 26 April to discuss the Karabakh conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. Kocharian subsequently said that the meeting was "among the most useful in the recent period," as it gave the two presidents a better understanding of each other's motives. He said agreement was reached on further talks, which he suggested should be held on the frontier between the two countries. But Kocharian also owned that even such high level contacts are unlikely to produce immediately a formula for resolving the conflict. In an exclusive interview with Turan, reprinted in the Armenian press on 28 April, Kocharian ruled out any further concessions by Armenia but denied that his country wishes to delay a solution to the conflict. Aliev, for his part, again expressed his rejection of the most recent Minsk Group draft peace proposal, which he said contravenes international law. LF
 AZERBAIJAN SIGNS NEW OIL CONTRACTSPresident Aliev signed production-sharing agreements with three U.S. oil companies in Washington on 27 April, Reuters and the "Financial Times" reported. Exxon acquired a 30 percent stake in the Zafar and Mashal offshore fields, while Mobil acquired the rights to the Savalan, Dalga, Lerik-Deniz, and Janub offshore deposits. Those contracts are valued at $5 billion and $4.5 billion, respectively, and the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR has a 50 percent stake in each. Texas- based Moncrief Oil signed a $500 million exploration and production-sharing contract for a 410 square mile region of the lower Kura River. LF
 GEORGIA BECOMES FULL MEMBER OF COUNCIL OF EUROPEPresident Eduard Shevardnadze attended an official ceremony in Strasbourg on 27 April to mark Georgia's formal acceptance as a full member of the Council of Europe, in which Armenia and Azerbaijan still have only special guest status. Addressing the parliament in Tbilisi the same day, speaker Zurab Zhvania said that in admitting Georgia to full membership, the Council of Europe acknowledges the country's compliance with democratic standards, according to Caucasus Press. Meanwhile, six members of the "Free Georgia--Future Generation" movement began a hunger strike in Tbilisi on 26 April to demand the release of 134 people imprisoned since 1992 whom they consider political prisoners. LF
 KAZAKH OPPOSITION PARTIES CRITICIZE DRAFT LEGISLATION ON ELECTIONS...At a news conference in Almaty on 27 April, representatives of the recently registered Birlesu political movement criticized as "undemocratic" the draft law on amendments to the presidential decree on the conduct of elections, RFE/RL's Kazakh service reported. The Birlesu members objected that the amendments do not make provision for the popular election of regional governors, who are to be appointed by regional councils. They also noted that the fee to register as a parliamentary candidate is so high that very few people can afford it. LF
 ...AND MEDIAAlso on 27 April, Orleu Movement chairman Seydakhmet Quttyqadam and Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan Deputy Chairman Amirzhan Qosanov told a news conference in Almaty that they consider the draft media law currently being considered by the parliament to be "very far from democratic," RFE/RL correspondents reported from the former capital. They claimed that the new legislation "would increase state control over all periodicals, television channels, and radio stations." LF
 POPULAR KYRGYZ MAYOR FORCED TO RESIGN...Bishkek Mayor Feliks Kulov told a press conference on 27 April that he wrote three days earlier to President Askar Akaev submitting his resignation, which the latter accepted on 26 April, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. In his letter to the president, Kulov said Akaev condones actions "that do not correspond to democracy and the rule of law." Specifically, he charged that rumors have been spread that he is preparing to undertake unconstitutional action in order to oust Akaev and that he is one of the most corrupt persons in the country. Also on 27 April, presidential press secretary Kanybek Imanaliev told journalists that Kulov is not a competent economic manager and that he intends to devote himself in the future to "pure politics." Observers say that the personable and popular 51-year-old Kulov, who as Interior Minister defied the perpetrators of the August 1991 Moscow putsch, could pose a serious challenge to Akaev in the 2000 presidential elections. Kulov refused to say on 27 April whether he will run in that poll. LF
 ...AS SECURITY MINISTRY IMPLICATED IN ILLICIT SURVEILLANCEKyrgyz National Security Minister Misir Ashirkulov told journalists in Bishkek on 27 April that an unspecified number of members of his ministry's Kalkhan anti- terrorist squad, which Kulov created when he was minister of security, have been arrested following the discovery of surveillance equipment in an apartment belonging to the ministry, Interfax reported. The commander of the Kalkhan squad has also been arrested. LF
 EU EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER SLOWDOWN IN TAJIK PEACE PROCESSGerman Ambassador Matthias Mayer told journalists in Dushanbe on 27 April that the EU, which his country currently chairs, is concerned about "problems" in the Tajik peace process, Interfax reported. Mayer said that the peace process could be speeded up by success in the referendum and parliamentary elections due this year. He also expressed regret at President Imomali Rakhmonov's rejection of proposed constitutional amendments drafted by the Committee for National Reconciliation, which includes both government and opposition representatives. Meyer said the EU considers those amendments "a realistic step toward implementation of the peace agreement." In a 23 April statement, the United Tajik Opposition deplored Rakhmonov's rejection of the amendments and appealed to the international community for support (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 1999). LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 THOUSANDS OF KOSOVARS FLEE TO MACEDONIAInternational aid workers on Macedonia's northern frontier said on 27 April that 3,000 Kosovars arrived at Blace and 2,000 at Lojane that day, bringing the total for the past four days to 13,000. The aid workers added that all camps and tents are full and that new arrivals have to sleep in the open. One refugee described the wave of new arrivals as "huge," adding that "many more are coming," AP reported. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, there are some 136,000 Kosovar refugees in Macedonia, of whom 79, 000 are staying in private homes. The Macedonian government believes that some 183,000 Kosovars have taken refuge in Macedonia. In Luxembourg, Foreign Minister Aleksendar Dimitrov said that up to 150,000 Kosovars are en route to Macedonia. PM
 TROUBLE IMMINENT IN CAMPS?A spokesman for the UNHCR noted in Skopje on 27 April that cases of measles, hepatitis, and dysentery have appeared among the refugees. He added that "this is a sign of things to come." The next day, another UNHCR spokesman said in Geneva that some of the people in the camps are "on the verge of rioting. It's very, very tense and it has to be defused very, very quickly. If we get another trainload or two and a few busloads again today, it's really going to be a horrific situation there in terms of overcrowding," he concluded. PM
 ETHNIC ALBANIANS LEAVE SERBIA, MONTENEGRO"Large groups" of ethnic Albanians have begun to arrive in Macedonia from Presevo, which is in Serbia proper, the "Financial Times" reported on 28 April. This is the first time that numbers of ethnic Albanians from Serbia outside Kosova have fled their homes. In northern Albania, Roman Catholic aid workers said that ethnic Albanian refugees have begun arriving from Montenegro. Refugees told the aid workers that they are fleeing ethnic cleansing in that mountainous republic, Vatican Radio reported. The broadcast did not provide details about the refugees or where they came from. PM
 GLIGOROV: REFUGEES WILL NOT GO HOME SOONMacedonian President Kiro Gligorov said in Skopje on 27 April that "it would be another act of violence to push for the speedy return of refugees" to Kosova. He noted that the homes of many of them have been destroyed and that the Kosovars "see that life is better" in Macedonia than in Kosova or Albania. Gligorov pointed out that "ethnic Albanians are an active part of our society" and government. PM
 GLIGOROV TO GAIN NEW POWERS?The Macedonian president also said in Skopje on 27 April that he wants the National Security Council and the legislature to declare a "state of imminent military threat." Observers noted that such a measure would increase the Social Democratic president's powers vis-a-vis the center- right government. They added that Gligorov lacks a majority either in the council or in the parliament and hence is unlikely to obtain the declaration he wants. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski maintains that there is no need to declare any sort of state of emergency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 1999). PM
 SCHARPING: ATROCITIES PRE-DATE AIR STRIKESGerman Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping said in Bonn on 27 April that photographs taken by an international monitor in Rogova some four months ago, on 29 January, show 15 corpses in a yard. They appear to be civilians, one of whom was beheaded, Scharping added. He noted that uniformed Serbian police stood in one corner of the yard holding automatic weapons, AP reported. Scharping concluded: "this makes clear the degree of brutality that was used when all this began and which is continuing." The German Defense Ministry in a recent report noted that Serbian forces launched their program of ethnic cleansing in January under the name of "Operation Horseshoe" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 1999). PM
 NEW EVIDENCE OF SYSTEMATIC RAPE BY SERBIAN FORCES"For the first time since the conflict [in Kosova] began, credible evidence emerged yesterday of a case of systematic rape committed by Serb troops, after the victims crossed into Albania and began giving their accounts," "The Guardian" reported on 28 April. Many of the more than 300 women "were hysterical and in shock." A UNICEF spokeswoman said that "by all accounts, they went through three nights and three days of hell" recently when Serbian troops "turned their village [near Suhareka] into a rape camp." She added: "I haven't come across anything like this" before. The women also reported that the Serbs "marched off 11 old men," whom the fellow villagers did not see again alive. PM
 ARBOUR: NO DEAL FOR WAR CRIMINALSLouise Arbour, who is the chief prosecutor for the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, said in London on 28 April that she is "very adamant" that any peace deal for Kosova must not include an amnesty for those responsible for atrocities. She stressed that "we will always explore personal criminal liability at the very highest possible level that the evidence will sustain." PM
 REFUGEES REPORT MASSACRESMore than 2,000 refugees entered Albania at the Morina border crossing on 27 April, most of whom were children and women from villages near Gjakova. It was the largest influx into Morina in more than a week, Reuters reported. Some of the new arrivals said they saw villages being burned behind them as they fled. Refugees added that Serbian troops took military- age men out of the column of refugees at a village referred to as "Mej." One refugee told Reuters that she saw between 100 and 200 bodies by the side of the road near that village. Several others also reported seeing bodies by the road during their journey. The reports could not be independently confirmed, but observers noted that almost all Kosovar refugees tell very similar stories. UNHCR spokesman Ray Wilkinson noted that "there seems to be some degree of consistency" in the refugees' reports. FS
 NATO PLANES ATTACK TARGETS NEAR ALBANIAN BORDERFour F-15 fighter jets and at least two A-10 "Warthog" anti-tank planes attacked targets near the Albanian border and around Prizren on 27 April, AP reported. It was the first deployment of NATO planes in the immediate vicinity of the Albanian-Kosovar border. FS
 ALBANIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR HELP TO UCKRexhep Meidani told AP in Paris on 27 April that the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) "is in Kosova to defend human lives." He stressed that "these young people, who average 22 years of age, are sacrificing their lives to save others." Meidani called on the international community to support the UCK and suggested that NATO could support it with modern communications equipment. He repeated calls for the establishment of an international protectorate in Kosova. French President Jacques Chirac said that the French government has "great esteem for Albania, which with extraordinary generosity opened its doors to hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians...chased like beasts by the Serbs." Meidani earlier told "Le Parisien" that Albania will not set limits on the number of refugees it takes in, but he called for more international aid to help it to avoid such action. FS
 EU SUPPORT FOR 'FRONT-LINE STATES'The foreign ministers of Albania, Macedonia, and Romania discussed their respective countries' financial needs with their counterparts from Austria, Germany, and Finland, as well as with other top EU officials, in Luxembourg, "The Guardian" reported on 28 April. The EU representatives promised their guests aid to help offset their costs for taking care of refugees. Brussels will also seek to help compensate Yugoslavia's neighbors for their trade losses stemming from the conflict. German Deputy Foreign Minister Guenther Verheugen noted that the crisis in Kosova "has made Southeastern Europe strategically the most important region in Europe." EU officials will provide detailed information on their aid plans in Bonn on 27 May, when Germany will host a meeting on its proposed "stability pact" for the region. Observers suggested that any pledges of assistance are likely to fall well short of the needs of what NATO calls "the front-line states." PM
 INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY PLANS BALKAN RECONSTRUCTION STRATEGYRepresentatives of seven international agencies and 33 countries met in Washington on 27 April to discuss ways of meeting the immediate financial needs of and developing long-term reconstruction plans for Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, and Romania. The heads of the World Bank and IMF chaired the session, AP reported. Participants concluded that the international community is likely to underestimate the needs of the countries most affected by the conflict and that the international community should constantly review those estimates. In Athens, several government ministers appealed to Greek businessmen to take an active part in postwar regional reconstruction efforts. PM
 GRANIC: CROATIA TO JOIN PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACEForeign Minister Mate Granic told "Jutarnji list" of 27 April that NATO will accept Croatia into its Partnership for Peace Program as soon as Croatia changes its electoral law. Granic added that this should be possible in about six weeks. He added that the crisis in Kosova has raised Croatia's importance in the eyes of NATO officials, who have become more sympathetic to its request for membership than they were before the crisis began. Granic noted that Western leaders at the recent NATO summit expressed support for the democratization of Serbia, but he added that they have no clear idea on how to bring it about. Granic added that the Atlantic alliance will establish a "long-term protectorate" in Kosova and promote stability in the region as a whole. PM
 ROMANIA TO CLOSE DOWN UNPROFITABLE MINESThe Ministry of Industry and Trade said on 27 April that it plans to close 61 loss-making coal mines this year, Rompres reported. Funds from the 1999 budget will be used to shut down 32 mines, while the government will use money provided by the World Bank to close another 29, a ministry official told the daily "Adevarul." A major cost incurred by closures will be the environmental cleanup and ecological rehabilitation of the mining areas, the official said. Some 180 unprofitable mines have been closed by the government in the last two years. In other news, AP reports that hundreds of Romanians are driving their fully tanked cars to the Yugoslav town of Vrsac and re-selling the gas for four times the price paid in Romania. PB
 MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN IN BUCHARESTDumitru Diacov said on 27 April that Moldova and Romania enjoy good bilateral relations but must increase economic cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported. Diacov, who was heading a delegation of Moldovan deputies, said after talks with Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, Romania's Foreign Ministry state secretary, that "no special problems" exist between the two countries. The two sides also discussed the situations in the breakaway Transdniester and Kosova regions. PB
 EU FOREIGN MINISTERS PRAISE BUCHAREST, SOFIAEU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg praised Romania and Bulgaria for their "positive responses" to the crisis in Kosova, dpa reported on 27 April. In a statement, the EU officials recognized the "specific needs and burdens" of the two countries and the "challenges and difficulties which the governments and citizens of Romania and Bulgaria are facing." The statement said the EU foreign ministers favor "further steps" that would bring Sofia and Bucharest into line with EU policies on the Balkans. And it appealed to private foreign investors to continue with investment plans in the two countries. PB
 BULGARIA MOVES AIR DEFENSE TO NUCLEAR POWER PLANTThe Defense Ministry said on 27 April that it is relocating anti-aircraft missiles deployed in the eastern part of the country to the Kozloduy nuclear power plant, AP reported, citing BTA. The power plant is situated just 110 kilometers from the Yugoslav border and would be inside the zone to which the government has offered NATO access. There are four 440- megawatt reactors at Kozloduy, which have no safety encasement, and two 1, 000 megawatt units, both of which are covered by an encasement. Officials say the encasements could withstand the force of a jet crashing into them, but they admit that the reactors without such protection are vulnerable. Deputy Defense Minister Velizar Shalamanov said last month that Bulgaria's air defense could prevent any air attack against it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 1999). PB
 VOTE ON NATO AIR SPACE REQUEST IN BULGARIA POSTPONEDThe Bulgarian parliament has postponed until next week a vote on the government's proposal to grant NATO use of a restricted air corridor over Bulgaria, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported on 28 April. The vote was originally scheduled for early this week. No reason for the postponement has been given to date. PB
[C] END NOTE
 WORLD BANK PREDICTS ROUGH YEAR AHEAD FOR MOST EAST EUROPEAN STATESby Robert Lyle
The World Bank's top official dealing with Russia and the other transition states in Central and Eastern Europe paints a sobering, even daunting, picture of what many in the region will face over the next year or so.
Johannes Linn, the bank's vice president for Europe and Central Asia, says the region faces a protracted crisis of economic, social, and, most recently, security problems, especially over the next 12 months.
Speaking to reporters in Washington on 25 April, before the start of this week's annual meetings of the bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Linn said Russia and Ukraine especially face serious economic difficulties
"We continue to expect a decline in output and an uncertain political outlook due to elections that are coming up this year and next year," he said. "The social situation in these countries is fragile since incomes are continuing to decline and social support systems are continuing to weaken. Poverty is on the rise, in Russia, for example, in our estimate, almost 20 percent of the population is in extreme poverty. And we of course also see a situation where structural and social reforms are incomplete and proceeding only very slowly and with limited political support."
Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic are the good news, he said, noting that these countries remain relatively stable and unaffected by the ongoing Russian financial crisis because of early reforms and strong policies.
But for most former Soviet countries, the impact of that crisis has been severe and will be felt for a long time to come, according to Linn. The global economy won't make the real difference among these nations, he says, it depends on their own policies and their proximity to Russia.
Asked about the lessons learned from the Asian and Russian financial crises, Linn said there were many, including the basics of strong domestic reforms. But one lesson that was part of Russia's collapse last summer was its strong defense of currency exchange rates. A major part of the IMF's last loan drawing for Russia was eaten up in the Central Bank's attempt to defend the exchange rate of the ruble. Linn says it is clear now this can lead to severe crises: "Ukraine is a good example where in fact a rather sensible management of getting away entirely from a fixed exchange rate in fact prevented the kind of meltdown we see in Russia.
"The weakness of banking systems and supervision, linking this of course also with the exposure of short term debts, in appropriate foreign exchange positions--again Russia being a good example--are another important lesson that we are drawing for much more work and attention has to be given."
Another significant lesson, according to Linn, is the danger of a weak social safety net. Very weak social protection systems are unable to deal with the fallout of severe economic crisis, he argued, noting that the case of Russia was particularly bad.
"We had difficulty in engaging the Russians through 1996 in an active dialogue on social reforms," he noted, "and still have difficulty in Ukraine today. Earlier attention to social system reforms of social systems and then more significant action also would have helped in crisis response."
Linn pointed out that Russia has still not dealt adequately with its social safety net and the deepening crisis only makes clearer that Russia cannot afford further postponement of reform. He said that in a recent study of the social system in Russia, the bank predicted that the worst of the crisis is still ahead in the coming 12 months. Next winter will be the hardest time, said Linn, far worse than this year.
The bank projects that real personal incomes in Russia will fall an average of 13 percent through 1999, with the extreme poverty rate rising to more than 18 percent of the population, while social expenditures by the government will fall by 15 percent.
More broadly for the region, Linn said the major lesson from the crisis has been the necessity of a political consensus on reforms. He compares the examples of Bulgaria and Romania:
"Bulgaria has now in fact recovered from a severe financial crisis only two years ago because in fact it has pursued a consistent and comprehensive reform and stabilization process based on a reasonably clear and sustainable political consensus between the president, the government, parliament, and wide segments in the population. Romania, by contrast, has had considerable difficulties that one can trace back to the lack of political consensus and difficulty of forming a clear political underpinning for reform and stabilization.
"Now we're hopeful that in looking forward, Romania can find a more consensus-oriented reform process, and indeed Romania is one of the pilot countries for the comprehensive development framework where we will focus very much with the leadership and under the leadership of the president, on trying to build this broader consensus."
The author is a Washington-based, senior RFE/RL correspondent.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty