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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 1, 00-01-03

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 3, No. 1, 3 January 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] AZERBAIJAN SETS UP STATE OIL FUND
  • [02] AZERBAIJAN FREES TWO ARMENIAN POWS
  • [03] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT CONFIRMS HE WILL SEEK RE-ELECTION
  • [04] GEORGIAN CENTRAL GOVERNMENT, ADJARIA SEEK TO RESOLVE TAX
  • [05] KYRGYZ SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS BAN ON OPPOSITION PARTY
  • [06] KYRGYZ PRO-GOVERNMENT PARTIES FORM ELECTORAL ALLIANCE
  • [07] TAJIK POLICE DEFUSE DUSHANBE BOMB

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [08] CROATS GO TO THE POLLS...
  • [09] ...INCLUDING THOSE ABROAD...
  • [10] ...BUT FOR HOW LONG?
  • [11] RACAN SETS CROATIA'S AGENDA
  • [12] IZETBEGOVIC HOPES FOR OPPOSITION VICTORY
  • [13] PETRITSCH WARNS BOSNIA
  • [14] FRANCE'S RICHARD WANTS GREATER POLICE ROLE FOR KFOR
  • [15] MILOSEVIC TELLS MONTENEGRO TO CHOOSE
  • [16] SLOVENIAN OFFICIAL QUITS OVER Y2K APPEAL
  • [17] 'PEACE BELL' RINGS IN TIRANA
  • [18] ROMANIAN PREMIER SAYS TAX REFORMS "JUST THE BEGINNING"
  • [19] EU GIVES GRANT TO ROMANIA TO ENCOURAGE REFORMS
  • [20] FORMER ROMANIAN PREMIER MIGHT LEAVE POLITICS
  • [21] MOLDOVAN PREMIER PAINTS GRIM PICTURE OF ECONOMY
  • [22] BULGARIA IMPOSES VISA REQUIREMENTS ON 'HIGH RISK' CIS
  • [23] BULGARIA, EU, SIGN GRANT AGREEMENT

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [24] A Transforming Resignation

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] AZERBAIJAN SETS UP STATE OIL FUND

    Azerbaijani President

    Heidar Aliev on 29 December issued a decree on creating a

    state oil fund in order to provide revenues for funding

    socio-economic and infrastructure projects, Turan reported.

    The fund will be formed on the basis of the proceeds from the

    sale of crude oil and gas, bonuses received from foreign oil

    companies, and rent paid by those companies for the use of

    state property. Interfax on 20 December quoted National Bank

    chief executive Elman Rustamov as saying that $25 million

    from the sale of the state oil company's share in the first

    oil extracted from the Chirag field will be paid into the

    fund as soon as it is opened. Interfax reported that the

    rationale for creating the fund is to minimize the risk that

    oil export revenues will be squandered. LF

    [02] AZERBAIJAN FREES TWO ARMENIAN POWS

    The Azerbaijani

    authorities on 30 December released two Armenian prisoners of

    war captured earlier in December, AP reported. The move comes

    after Yerevan's mid-December release of an Azerbaijani

    conscript in what was termed "a good-will gesture," (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 December 1999). LF

    [03] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT CONFIRMS HE WILL SEEK RE-ELECTION

    Eduard

    Shevardnadze said in his weekly radio address on 3 January

    that he has already made up his mind to seek a second

    presidential term in the 9 April presidential elections,

    Caucasus Press reported. Neither Shevardnadze nor any other

    potential candidate has formally announced their intention to

    contend the poll. LF

    [04] GEORGIAN CENTRAL GOVERNMENT, ADJARIA SEEK TO RESOLVE TAX

    DISPUTE

    Talks in Batumi on 30 December between Georgian

    Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze and Adjar Supreme

    Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze went some way toward

    resolving the disagreement between the central government and

    the Adjar Autonomous Republic over the 30 million lari

    (approximately $15 million) which Tbilisi claims Adjaria owes

    to the state budget, Caucasus Press reported. The talks are

    scheduled to resume after 7 January. On 3 January, President

    Shevardnadze said in his weekly radio interview that Adjaria

    should retain an unspecified part of its budget revenues for

    2000 but added that it should still pay the entire amount

    owed for last year. LF

    [05] KYRGYZ SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS BAN ON OPPOSITION PARTY

    The

    Supreme Court on 31 December upheld the 24 December decision

    by a Bishkek district court that the Central Electoral

    Commission ruling barring the El (Bei-Beshara party) from

    participating in the 20 February parliamentary elections

    under the party list system is valid, RFE/RL's bureau in the

    Kyrgyz capital reported. The party had brought legal

    proceedings in a Bishkek district court against the Justice

    Ministry. The ministry had advised the Central Electoral

    Commission not to register the party to participate in the

    poll under the proportional system. Earlier, the Supreme

    Court had ordered the district court to reconsider its

    decision, but the lower court declined to overturn its

    original ruling. The Supreme Court then rejected a second

    appeal by El (Bei-Beshara), which is estimated to be the

    second-largest political party in Kyrgyzstan after the

    Communist Party. LF

    [06] KYRGYZ PRO-GOVERNMENT PARTIES FORM ELECTORAL ALLIANCE

    At a

    meeting in Bishkek on 30 December, the leaders of the Social

    Democratic Party, the Party of Economic Revival, and the

    Birimdik Party announced they will draw up a joint party list

    to contest the 15 seats in the 60-mandate lower chamber of

    the new Kyrgyz parliament that will be allocated under the

    proportional system, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The

    leaders of the three parties occupy the first three places on

    that combined list. LF

    [07] TAJIK POLICE DEFUSE DUSHANBE BOMB

    Police in Dushanbe located

    and defused an eight kilogram bomb in central Dushanbe

    shortly before the start of New Year's celebrations on 31

    December, AP reported. Prime Minister Akil Akilov and members

    of the government were scheduled to attend the celebrations.

    LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [08] CROATS GO TO THE POLLS...

    Some 6,500 polling stations opened

    on 3 January across Croatia to enable about 3.85 million

    eligible voters to elect a new parliament. A total of 55

    political parties are contesting approximately 150 seats,

    with the exact number of seats depending on the size of the

    turnout among Croatians living abroad. Two opposition

    coalitions are widely favored to win. The Social Democrats'

    Ivica Racan is likely to head an opposition-run government.

    Polls suggest that the governing Croatian Democratic

    Community (HDZ), which has been in power since 1990 and has

    been tainted by corruption and other scandals, will have to

    go into opposition. Many observers predict that the broadly-

    based HDZ will eventually split up along ideological lines

    into at least two new parties. The HDZ is nonetheless

    expected to win the presidential vote on 24 January, provided

    that moderate Foreign Minister Mate Granic is the party's

    candidate. PM

    [09] ...INCLUDING THOSE ABROAD...

    The previous day, up to 350,000

    eligible voters abroad began casting their votes at 152

    polling places in 47 countries. The largest group is in

    Bosnia-Herzegovina, where there are 29 polling sites. The

    voters abroad include emigrants and "guest workers" but most

    are Herzegovinians, who are also citizens of Bosnia. Turnout

    in Herzegovina was heavy and ran up to 90 percent in some

    places. Exit polls suggested that the traditionally

    nationalistic Herzegovinians voted overwhelmingly for the

    HDZ, in which many Herzegovinians hold influential positions.

    PM

    [10] ...BUT FOR HOW LONG?

    It is irksome to many Croats (as well as

    to the Bosnian Muslim political leadership) that the

    Herzegovinians hold full Croatian citizenship and have the

    right to vote. Many observers expect an opposition-led

    government to curb the rights of the Herzegovinians. It is

    unlikely, however, that the government would curtail the

    emigrants' voting rights, since Croatia traditionally has a

    large and economically important diaspora, especially from

    Dalmatia. In 1990, emigrants were angry at attempts by the

    governing communists to deny them the vote. They returned to

    Croatia en masse to vote for the HDZ and its leader, the late

    Franjo Tudjman. PM

    [11] RACAN SETS CROATIA'S AGENDA

    Racan told Reuters on 30

    December that the opposition "has already held talks with the

    most important [Western countries]...and I believe that an

    opportunity will soon arise for experts and government people

    to come to Croatia, immediately after the election." He

    stressed that the new government must act quickly to cut the

    bloated budget, reform the subsidized pension and health

    systems, and shut down loss-making industries. Once the

    opposition comes to power, Croatia's international standing

    will improve quickly, he added. Racan said he is anxious to

    make up for lost time in pursuing EU membership. President

    Tudjman, who died in December, doggedly refused to institute

    key political and economic reforms demanded by Brussels and

    Washington as the prerequisite for Croatia's integration into

    Euro-Atlantic institutions. PM

    [12] IZETBEGOVIC HOPES FOR OPPOSITION VICTORY

    Bosnian Muslim

    leader Alija Izetbegovic on 30 December said it is no secret

    that there were profound differences between himself and

    Tudjman, whom Izetbegovic regarded as opposed to Bosnian

    statehood. The Muslim leader, who was speaking in Sarajevo,

    said he expects relations between Zagreb and Sarajevo to

    improve after the elections, and that this improvement will

    be "substantial" if the opposition wins, RFE/RL's South

    Slavic Service reported. PM

    [13] PETRITSCH WARNS BOSNIA

    The international community's

    Wolfgang Petritsch said in a New Year's message in Sarajevo

    that Bosnia can no longer "muddle along as it has so far." He

    stressed that the country needs "radical change...[if it]

    does not want to become Europe's abandoned backyard." PM

    [14] FRANCE'S RICHARD WANTS GREATER POLICE ROLE FOR KFOR

    French

    Defense Minister Alain Richard said on 1 January at the

    French military base at Novo Selo that KFOR peacekeepers

    should play a greater role in ensuring basic security in the

    troubled province. The UN's Bernard Kouchner has frequently

    complained that only 1,800 of the promised 6,000

    international police officers have arrived. In Prishtina on 2

    January, he said a lack of funds has prompted him to postpone

    planned elections. He told Reuters that "it's all too easy to

    say that [the crisis in Kosova] is over. It's not over at

    all: it's ahead of us.... [The lack of money] makes me really

    angry.... This is important for the people and for the world-

    -stability in the Balkans." On 30 December, some 2,000 Serbs

    in Rahovec appealed to Kouchner to ensure their security or

    provide a convoy "for us to collectively leave this hell,"

    Beta news agency reported. PM

    [15] MILOSEVIC TELLS MONTENEGRO TO CHOOSE

    Yugoslav President

    Slobodan Milosevic told the government-run daily "Politika"

    on 30 December that Montenegro is free to leave the Yugoslav

    federation if it wishes to do so. He added, however, that the

    Montenegrins must "stick to the rules" if they choose to

    remain in a joint state with Serbia. The Frankfurt-based

    Serbian daily "Vesti" reported that Milosevic has promoted

    General Milorad Obradovic, who commands the Second Army

    (which is responsible for Montenegro), and General Geza

    Farkas, who heads the general staff's security department

    (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1999). The daily stressed

    that the promotions of the two men suggest that Milosevic

    sees Montenegro as the most important issue facing him at

    present. He also made General Vladimir Lazarevic head of the

    staff of the Third Army, which is responsible for Kosova.

    Replacing him at the head of the Prishtina Corps is General

    Radojko Stefanovic. PM

    [16] SLOVENIAN OFFICIAL QUITS OVER Y2K APPEAL

    Bojan Usenicnik,

    who heads the Office for Protection and Rescue, resigned his

    post on 3 January. He had come in for sharp media criticism

    for recommending the previous week that Slovenians buy

    emergency reserves of food, water, batteries, candles, and

    medicines, Reuters reported. He denied charges that he had

    exaggerated the dangers of the potential Y2K problem.

    Usenicnik stressed that his recommendations were no different

    than those made by officials of other countries. No major Y2K

    difficulties have been reported in the former Yugoslavia. PM

    [17] 'PEACE BELL' RINGS IN TIRANA

    A 500-kilogram bell rang in the

    Albanian capital on 30 December after making a two-month trip

    from the Vatican via Italy and Kosova. The bell is made out

    of 30,000 bullets gathered by children in the region of Lezha

    in northern Albania. The project was the idea of a Roman

    Catholic priest in Lezha, Father Don Antonio Scara. The bell

    bears the inscription: "I was born of bullets, and will ring

    in the road to peace for Albanian children in the third

    millennium," AP reported. Lezha witnessed particularly

    intense violence during the civil unrest that swept Albania

    following the collapse of pyramid investment schemes in early

    1997. PM

    [18] ROMANIAN PREMIER SAYS TAX REFORMS "JUST THE BEGINNING"

    Prime

    Minister Mugur Isarescu on 30 December said the tax reforms

    announced by the government last week are "just the

    beginning" of a series of measures aimed at stimulating the

    Romanian economy, fostering competitiveness, and fighting the

    "gray economy" and corruption. He said the "innumerable"

    incentives that were granted to companies in the past have

    been replaced by only two incentives -- one aimed at

    encouraging investment and the other at boosting exports.

    Isarescu said the previous system generated arbitrariness in

    the granting of incentives and encouraged dishonesty in

    reporting income. He said he expects a drop in the inflation

    rate to balance the price hikes that will result from the

    government's decision to increase VAT, RFE/RL's Bucharest

    bureau reported. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1999).

    MS

    [19] EU GIVES GRANT TO ROMANIA TO ENCOURAGE REFORMS

    Foreign

    Minister Petre Roman and EU mission head in Romania Fokion

    Fotiadis on 30 December signed in Bucharest an agreement

    under which the EU will grant Romania 209 million euros

    ($212.5 million) to encourage reforms and to cover their

    social costs, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Fotiadis

    said EU financial assistance to Romania will quadruple in

    2000 to help the country make progress in its accession talks

    with the union. MS

    [20] FORMER ROMANIAN PREMIER MIGHT LEAVE POLITICS

    In an interview

    with RFE/RL on 30 December, former Prime Minister Radu Vasile

    said he needs a period of "political detoxification" to

    recover from the "existential nausea" produced by the

    "abusive and disgraceful manner" in which he was pushed to

    resign by the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic

    (PNTCD). He said he is considering withdrawing from politics

    altogether. However, he said he is also thinking of setting

    up "a Christian-Democratic Popular Party." But Vasile said he

    lacks the funds and the energy to set up such a group, adding

    that the PNTCD "and other presidential circles" are trying to

    tarnish his image in the media. Vasile denied reports that he

    is involved in membership negotiations with other political

    parties but confirmed that several political groups have

    approached him with offers of membership. MS

    [21] MOLDOVAN PREMIER PAINTS GRIM PICTURE OF ECONOMY

    Prime

    Minister Dumitru Barghis on 30 December said the 1999 budget

    deficit reached some 500 million lei (more than $43 million),

    inflation was 40 percent, and the GDP fell by 4 percent

    compared with 1998. Moldova's external debt stands at almost

    1.3 billion lei and its internal debt is 2 billion lei.

    Barghis also criticized the Finance and Interior ministries,

    saying the existing laws must be enforced more strictly in

    order to fight tax evasion and corruption, RFE/RL's Chisinau

    bureau reported. In other news, the government on 30 December

    reinstated General Nicolae Alexei as deputy interior minister

    and head of the ministry's Department for Combating Organized

    Crime and Corruption. The cabinet of former Prime Minister

    Ion Sturza had dismissed Alexei from those posts (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline,'"30 December 1999). MS

    [22] BULGARIA IMPOSES VISA REQUIREMENTS ON 'HIGH RISK' CIS

    REPUBLICS

    Bulgaria introduced visa requirements for the

    citizens of 17 of the 24 states that are on the EU's list of

    "high risk" countries effective on 1 January, BTA and ITAR-

    TASS reported on 30 December. Seven former Soviet republics

    are on the list -- Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan,

    Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. Until now, citizens

    of those countries have been able to enter Bulgaria with an

    invitation or a tourist voucher. MS

    [23] BULGARIA, EU, SIGN GRANT AGREEMENT

    The EU on 30 December

    granted Bulgaria 125 million euros ($126.5 million) to

    support its accession efforts, BTA and AP reported. The

    amount will be doubled in 2001. The acting head of the EU

    mission to Bulgaria, Edigio Conicani, and Bulgarian Foreign

    Minister Nadezhda Mihailova signed an agreement on the grant

    in Sofia. In other news, BTA reported on 30 December that

    prices for household consumption of electricity and natural

    gas were increased by 10 percent as of 1 January. MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [24] A Transforming Resignation

    By Paul A. Goble

    Boris Yeltsin's resignation as Russian president

    appears likely to fundamentally alter the relationship

    between Moscow and the West, at a minimum putting

    cooperation between the two on hold for a certain

    period of time and more likely reducing the level of

    cooperation over the longer haul.

    There are three reasons for that conclusion.

    First, as has been true for much of the last

    generation, the West's relationship with Moscow has

    been more personal than political. That is, it has been

    between individual leaders in the West and the man in

    charge in Moscow. That was true in Leonid Brezhnev's

    time, in Mikhail Gorbachev's time, and it has been true

    in Yeltsin's time as well.

    Every change at the top in Moscow has required the

    establishment of new personal ties. That inevitably

    takes time and hence inevitably becomes the occasion

    for intense deliberations about what kind of a

    relationship it should be. That is especially likely

    now because of acting President Vladimir Putin's past

    as a security officer and his current actions in

    Chechnya.

    While Western leaders have praised Yeltsin and

    promise continued close ties with Putin, virtually all

    of them will be under pressure from politicians and

    analysts in their own countries who viewed Yeltsin at

    best as a fallen hero because of his actions at the end

    of the Soviet Union and who see Putin as an openly

    authoritarian figure opposed to many of the things that

    Western countries want.

    Second, precisely because of Yeltsin's ties with

    Western leaders as well as his past services to the

    dismantling of the Soviet Union and moves toward

    democratization and free market economics, Western

    leaders have been restrained in their reaction to a

    variety of recent Russian moves that otherwise might

    have drawn far more criticism and might have led to a

    reduction of assistance.

    Moscow's opposition to the NATO campaign in

    Yugoslavia and its moves to seize Prishtina ahead of

    allied forces, its increasing ties with Iran and Iraq

    and other radically anti-Western countries, and its war

    against Chechnya and open discrimination against people

    from the Caucasus are all policies that many in the

    West disagree with and oppose.

    But as long as Yeltsin was in office, most

    political leaders refrained from taking any genuinely

    tough actions. Now that Yeltsin is gone, the situation

    will change. Some diplomats and leaders will of course

    argue that the West must proceed steadily and

    carefully, and thus they will argue against any break.

    But others will now be able to raise their voices to

    argue that this is exactly the right time to send

    Moscow a message.

    And third, both Yeltsin and to an even larger

    degree his Western supporters have put great store in

    the idea that he would be the first Russian leader in

    history to finish his term in office and then be

    replaced through a democratic election. Now, that is

    not going to happen, and the fact that it won't will

    tarnish both his place in history and Moscow's standing

    in the West.

    As his supporters will no doubt point out,

    Yeltsin's resignation is constitutional. That is, it is

    provided for in the December 1993 Russian Federation

    basic law that he helped to craft. But by resigning

    rather than serving out his term, Yeltsin raises

    questions about himself, about his successor, and about

    Russia's standing as a country moving toward democracy.

    Some in both Russia and the West are likely to

    view Yeltsin's action as deeply political, as a way of

    giving his hand-picked successor Putin the best chance

    to rule Russia in the future by allowing him to call a

    snap election before the boost he has received from the

    initial fighting in Chechnya disappears.

    But these same people are also going to ask

    whether the former president did this so that Putin

    could keep Yeltsin, as well as members of his family

    and entourage, from facing embarrassing legal questions

    in the future.

    Others are going to focus on Putin himself. Last

    month, one Moscow magazine featured the new acting

    president on its cover as "the spymaster of all

    Russians." Putin's background in the intelligence

    agencies may lead some to conclude that he has staged a

    kind of palace coup, pressuring Yeltsin to go now as

    the price of guaranteeing the outgoing president that

    he will not have to face criminal charges for his past

    actions.

    Even if such speculation is baseless, it seems

    certain to become part of the internal debate as

    Western countries decide how to deal with the new

    president of Russia, a man who has defined himself only

    to the extent of launching a war in the Caucasus and

    denouncing the West's efforts to end the bloodletting

    in Kosova.

    But perhaps most importantly for the future of

    east-west ties, many Western governments are certain to

    view Yeltsin's resignation and, even more so, Putin's

    elevation as evidence that Russia has not made as much

    progress toward democracy as they had hoped or even

    claimed.

    These are the questions that are almost certain to be on

    the minds of Western statesmen as they deliver their already

    prepared messages of praise for Yeltsin and his past

    contributions.

    03-01-00


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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