|Thursday, 21 February 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 222, 00-11-15
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 4, No. 222, 15 November 2000
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARRESTED BUSINESSMAN TO REMAIN IN ARMENIAN DETENTIONA Yerevan district court ruled late on 13 November that arrested businessman and 21st Century Association President Arkadii Vartanian must remain in jail pending his trial on charges of calling for the violent overthrow of the Armenian leadership, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 14 November. Vartanian's wife, Elena, rejected that charge as "absolutely absurd" and vowed to campaign for her husband's release. Also on 13 November, Noyan Tapan circulated the text of an open letter to Armenian President Robert Kocharian signed by representatives of the Russian intelligentsia and former Russian ambassador to Yerevan Vladimir Stupishin. The letter notes Vartanian's earlier service to Armenia and Nagorno- Karabakh and calls for his release, adding that the signatories do not believe he would ever take any action that would damage the interests of Armenia or the Armenian people. LF
 AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION TO BOYCOTT NEW PARLIAMENTMeeting in Baku on 14 November, representatives of the Musavat, Liberal, Democratic, and Azerbaijan National Independence Parties and of both wings of the divided Azerbaijan Popular Front Party adopted a three-point statement saying they do not recognize the validity of the 5 November parliamentary election and will not cooperate with the new legislature, Turan reported. The signatories demanded the annulment of the poll results and new elections, and they also confirmed their intention to convene a rally in Baku on 18 November to lend support to that demand. Also on 14 November, "Yeni Azerbaycan," the newspaper of the eponymous ruling party, condemned the planned rally and accused the opposition of being unable to accept its poll defeat. Azerbaijani Interior Minister Ramil Usubov has warned that if the rally takes place, police will disperse would-be participants, "Sharg" reported on 14 November. LF
 UN SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS FOR EXPEDITING SOLUTION TO ABKHAZ CONFLICTThe UN Security Council issued a statement on 14 November expressing its "deep concern" at the failure of Georgia and Abkhazia to reach a comprehensive political settlement of the Abkhaz conflict that would clarify Abkhazia's status vis-a-vis the central Georgian government, RFE/RL's UN correspondent reported. Security Council President Peter Van Walsum called upon "both parties, in particular the Abkhaz side, to undertake immediate efforts to move beyond the impasse." The UN Secretary- General's special envoy for Abkhazia, Dieter Boden, has drafted a settlement proposal on the division of authorities between Tbilisi and Sukhum within a single Georgian state. The Abkhaz leadership has consistently rejected that draft as a basis for negotiations, arguing that the Abkhaz population expressed approval of the breakaway region's independence in a referendum in October 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 1999). LF
 GEORGIA, RUSSIA FAIL TO REACH AGREEMENT OVER VISASDuring talks in Moscow last week, Georgian and Russian government delegations failed to reach agreement on a new regime for travel between the two countries, Caucasus Press reported on 14 November. Tbilisi rejected the Russian proposal to introduce a visa requirement for all Georgian residents except for the population of the unrecognized Republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In a statement released on 14 November, the Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the Georgian position as "unconstructive" and said that unless an agreement is reached, the visa requirement for Georgian citizens will take effect on 5 December. Also on 14 November, Revaz Adamia, leader of the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia parliamentary faction, said that if Russia introduces such a visa requirement, Georgia will retaliate by demanding visas not only for Russian citizens wishing to visit Georgia but also for those resident there. The latter category would include Russian military personnel stationed in Georgia and their families. LF
 DISPLACED PERSONS DEMAND AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATIONSeveral hundred Azerbaijanis made homeless during the Karabakh conflict blocked traffic in Baku for 30 minutes on 14 November, Turan reported. They demanded the "liberation" of Nagorno-Karabakh, the resignation of President Heidar Aliev, and the advent to power of the opposition Musavat party, for which most of them voted on 5 November. They also demanded the resumption of electricity supplies to their temporary accommodation, claiming that those supplies had been cut because they did not vote for Yeni Azerbaycan. LF
 HUNGER-STRIKERS PROTEST KAZAKHSTAN'S LAND LAWThe four protesters who embarked on a hunger strike in Almaty last week to demand publication of the controversial draft land law passed by the lower house of the parliament late last month have been joined by another four, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported on14 November. The hunger- strikers also want both chambers of the parliament to debate an alternative draft law prepared by opposition parties. Earlier attempts to push through legislation that would permit the sale of agricultural land sparked similar protests (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 June 2000). LF
 KYRGYZ PRESIDENT SAYS ECONOMIC CRISIS OVERIn his annual address to a joint session of the two houses of the parliament on 14 November, Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev said the country has finally overcome the consequences of the economic crisis of 1998, Interfax reported. Akaev said GDP grew by 4.3 percent during the first 10 months of this year, while the national currency lost only 6.7 percent in value over that period, compared with 46 percent during the first 10 months of 1999. He predicted that the budget deficit will be eliminated by 2003. In August 2000, that deficit amounted to 864.6 million soms ($10.8 million), which is equal to 2.5 percent of GDP. LF
 TURKMENISTAN TO REDUCE STATE-SECTOR PERSONNEL...President Saparmurat Niyazov informed a cabinet session on 10 November that as of 1 January 2001, some 10,000 employees of the Ministry of Education and 11,000 from the Ministry of Health will be laid off, Interfax reported on 14 November, citing an unnamed government source. The workloads of the remaining teachers and physicians will be increased. Additional cuts in administrative personnel will be made in all ministries except the Defense Ministry. The reductions will reportedly make it possible to double the wages of state sector employees and to raise those of Ministry of Defense personnel and border guards by 50 percent. LF
 ...AND INTRODUCE NEW EMPLOYMENT RECORDSNiyazov also announced at the 10 November cabinet meeting that it is planned to replace existing Soviet-era individual employment records [trudovaya knizhka] by a more detailed document, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 November. The new document will record not only an individual's present and former employers but also his family status, his "services to society," his salary and tax liability, any loans he has taken out, and pension and medical insurance contributions. Criminal convictions will also be recorded. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 MULTIETHNIC PARTY AHEAD IN BOSNIAN ELECTIONSThe OSCE reported on 14 November that the multiethnic Social Democratic Party (SDP) has a slim lead in Bosnian elections for seats in the Muslim- Croat Federation legislature, AP reported. The OSCE said that with 70 percent of the votes tallied for the federation legislature, the SDP has 25.9 percent and the Muslim nationalist Party for Democratic Action (SDA) 25.1 percent. The nationalist Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) has 19.5 percent of the vote. The reformist Party for Bosnia-Herzegovina is fourth with 14.8 percent. In elections to the Bosnian parliament, the results are similar, with the SDP gaining 26.6 percent, the SDA 25 percent, and the HDZ 23 percent. In the Republika Srpska, the ultranationalist Serb Democratic Party, which was founded by indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, has a commanding 41.7 percent of the vote. The Party of Democratic Progress has 16.8 percent. The U.S. ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Thomas Miller, said that "the trend in terms of going away from nationalist parties is in the right direction. But it's not dramatic." PB
 U.S., UN, EU DISAPPOINTED AT LEVEL OF SUPPORT FOR BOSNIAN NATIONALISTSJames Cunningham, the U.S. deputy ambassador to the UN, said in New York on 14 November that although the U.S. is encouraged by the "slow and steady progress" of moderate parties in Bosnia, it is disappointed that nationalist parties still have so much voter support, AP reported. Cunningham told the UN Security Council that the U.S. will "continue to urge that obstructionists be kept out of the government." Jean-Marie Guehenno, the UN undersecretary-general for peacekeeping, told the council that in addition to the strong showing by the hard-line Bosnian Serbs, the HDZ increased its support by campaigning "under a banner of fierce criticism and open defiance of the international community." He added that HDZ leader Ante Jelavic continues to issue "statements of defiance against the international community." Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy and security affairs chief, said "I am disappointed that the nationalist message is still so powerful at a time when Bosnia's neighbors have turned their back on past policies and have resolutely embarked on a forward- looking course." PB
 EU REMOVES TRAVEL BAN FOR MANY TOP YUGOSLAV OFFICIALSThe EU lifted a travel ban on several top aides and officials of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, AP reported on 15 November. The revised blacklist does not include some 184 people previously banned, including Yugoslav Army chief of staff General Nebojsa Pavkovic, secret service chief Rade Markovic, and Milosevic top aide Gorica Gajevic. The news of the revised list was sharply criticized by members of reformist parties in Yugoslavia. Zoran Djindjic, a leader of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS), said the list was created by "someone with sympathies towards the Milosevic regime. I was most surprised by the removal of Rade Markovic... This is a misuse and a manipulation because at the last DOS meeting nobody knew anything about it." PB
 CLINTON ENVOY ARRIVES IN BELGRADEJames O'Brien, U.S. President Bill Clinton's Balkan envoy, arrived in Belgrade on 14 November for talks aimed at restoring diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Yugoslavia, Reuters reported. O'Brien said last week he expects to meet with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and others to discuss resuming ties. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the restoration of ties between the two countries is "something that should take place very soon." PB
 YUGOSLAVIA SET TO JOIN IMF, EBRD THIS YEAR--BUT NOT WORLD BANKPedro Solbes, the EU's monetary affairs commissioner, said on 14 November that Yugoslavia will be quickly admitted to world financial institutions, including the IMF and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Reuters reported. Solbes said that the international community will provide aid to Belgrade through the winter but that "in the long term, we think the Republic of Yugoslavia must be treated like any other country." Solbes was speaking in Paris, where IMF, EBRD, G-7, World Bank, and UN representatives were meeting. The World Bank said Belgrade's renewed membership in the bank will hinge on agreeing to a schedule for the repayment of Yugoslavia's debt to the bank, which totals some $1.7 billion. PB
 DANUBE TO BE CLEARED BY NEXT SUMMERBernard Chenever, the head of the EU's Danube Commission, said on 14 November in Novi Sad that work to clear the Danube River of collapsed bridges and other debris in Serbia will begin next spring, Reuters reported. Chenever said that "this is the start of new relations between Yugoslavia and the EU. It is our aim to begin work at the start of spring...and finish by the end of the summer." The EU has allocated 22 million euros ($18.85 million) to clear the river. PB
 KOSOVAR SERB SAYS SERBIAN ELECTIONS TO BE HELD IN KOSOVAMomcilo Trajkovic, the coordinator of Kosova policy for the Democratic Opposition of Serbia, said on 14 November in Belgrade that the 23 December Serbian elections will also be held in Kosova, Reuters reported. Trajkovic said that because of violence against ethnic Serbs in Kosova, polling places will be set up only in places "where there is securtiy, for example in Gracanica, in Strpce." But a spokeswoman for Kosova's UN-led administration said international officials are still discussing the issue. Trajkovic said holding the elections in Kosova "will not bother anyone in Kosovo but will politically support the establishment of democratic forces in Serbia and Yugoslavia." PB
 ZAGREB WON'T SUPPORT BOSNIAN CROAT NATIONALIST DAILYCroatian President Stipe Mesic said on 14 November that Zagreb will not support Bosnian Croat leaders whose goal is to recreate the wartime state known as Herzeg-Bosna, Reuters reported. Mesic said in an interview with the Sarajevo daily "Dnevni Avaz" that Bosnia-Herzegovina must remain united. He said that "it must seek the realization of its goal, and that is the European Union." Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula said the previous day that "Croatia has a constitutional obligation to monitor events in Bosnia and look after the welfare of Bosnian Croats. However, unlike the previous government, we do not want to abuse that." He added that some Bosnian Croat political forces "are actually fighting to maintain their political and material monopoly in Bosnia." PB
 DRNOVSEK NAMED SLOVENIAN PRIME MINISTERSlovenian President Milan Kucan named Janez Drnovsek prime minister on 14 November, AP reported. The nomination must be approved by the legislature before Drnovsek can choose a cabinet and assume power. Except for a six- month period this year, Drnovsek has been Slovenia's premier since 1992. His center-left Liberal Democratic Party won a majority of votes in the 15 October elections. PB
 ROMANIAN SENATE WANTS GOVERNMENT TO STOP PRIVATIZATIONThe upper house of the parliament has approved a motion proposed by the main opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) asking the government to stop all privatization efforts until the new government is formed after the 26 November elections, Romanian media reported on 14 November. The motion was also supported by senators from the coalition member Democratic Party, while most of the senators from the other coalition member, the National Liberal Party, abstained. Premier Mugur Isarescu considered the motion "wrong" and "useless." State Property Fund chairman Radu Sarbu warned that the motion could harm the country's relations with the World Bank and contradicts Romania's medium-term strategy for joining the EU. The European Commission's annual report on candidate countries' performances released earlier this month called on the government to speed up economic reform and the privatization process. ZsM
 ROMANIAN PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTIES FAILS TO ADOPT RESTITUTION LAWThe Chamber of Deputies ended its mandate on 14 November without having adopted a law on the restitution of properties confiscated by the communist regime, Mediafax reported. While a large majority in the Senate approved the "mediation report" on the two versions of the law adopted by the two houses of the parliament, the lower house had to suspend work on the bill owing to the lack of a quorum. The passage of the bill was one of the main priorities of the government coalition. ZsM
 SWEDISH FOREIGN MINISTER SUPPORTS LIFTING VISA REGIME FOR BULGARIANSAnna Lindh said in Sofia on 15 November that she supports Sofia's demand that EU visa requirements for Bulgarians be dropped, AP reported. Lindh said after meeting with her Bulgarian counterpart, Nadezhda Mihailova, that "it is important to lift the visa regime... but we cannot make promises on behalf of the EU." Sweden will take over the rotating presidency of the EU in January. Lindh added that "EU enlargement is the first and main priority for the Swedish presidency." The Bulgarian parliament passed a declaration demanding that the visa requirements be lifted (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2000). A council of EU interior and justice ministers is to discuss the visa issue on 30 November. PB
 BULGARIAN OLYMPIC CHIEF RE-ELECTEDThe Bulgarian Olympic Committee unanimously re-elected Ivan Slavkov as president of the organization on 14 November, Reuters reported. Slavkov, a member of the International Olympic Committee, has been the BOC president since 1982. Bulgaria was embarrassed by cases of drug use by some of its athletes at the Summer Olympic Games in Sydney in September. PB
[C] END NOTE
 EBRD REPORT SEES BIG DISPARITIES BETWEEN CIS AND CENTRAL EUROPEBy Ron Synovitz
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said on 14 November that countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States, particularly in Central Asia, will need at least a decade of large growth to recover from the economic decline experienced since 1989.
The statement is part of the EBRD's Transition Report 2000, the bank's latest annual survey of economic transition in the former Eastern bloc.
The report says the economic recovery that began in Russia and Central Asia around the middle of last year is now progressing rapidly. But EBRD Chief Economist Willem Buiter told RFE/RL that the former Soviet republics still need to implement reforms to ensure that their growth is sustainable in the long term: "There's no doubt that we need a decade or more of sustained growth in the CIS to make up for the output losses they've suffered since the transition began."
Buiter says much of the economic recovery seen in Russia and Central Asia since last year is based on relatively high international oil prices, which have caused income from energy exports to soar. "Net exporters of oil [and gas] have benefited greatly from this tripling, almost, of the price of oil since the beginning of 1999," he said. "We're talking here about Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan. They've gotten a gift. Russia's budgetary performance, Russian export performance, would be adversely affected if oil prices came down. [The value of Russian exports] will at some point [decline] because the current oil price is not sustainable."
The EBRD says that a series of currency devaluations in the former Soviet republics since the Russian financial crisis of August 1998 have helped local producers. It notes that all CIS countries, except for Armenia, have experienced a drastic depreciation of their currencies in recent years. Those devaluations have result in an increase in the price of imported goods, thus protecting local producers from cheaper imports.
But the EBRD warns that one adverse effect of the devaluations has been an increase in the burden of government debts that are denominated in Western currencies, such as U.S. dollars and German marks. The rising cost of servicing such debts is putting pressure on state budgets, and countries will have to compensate for the higher debt payments by improving their systems for collecting taxes and broadening tax receipts to include more sectors other than oil and gas, according to the bank.
In comparative terms, the EBRD says the economies of the more advanced transitional countries of Central and Eastern Europe have on the whole rebounded to 1989 levels. According to the bank, economic output in Poland and Slovenia is now greater than it was in 1989. Slovakia's GDP is now approximately the same as it was in 1989. And Hungary and the Czech Republic, the other successful reformers, have almost caught up to 1989 levels, the EBRD says.
The situation is different in the Balkans, where economic output in Bulgaria and Romania is still well below that recorded before the fall of communism. Output in Bulgaria has fallen by a third since 1989, while Romania's economy has contracted by 24 percent during that time.
Reliable information on Yugoslavia was not available to allow the EBRD to make comparisons between 1989 and 1999. But the EBRD estimates the Yugoslav economy contracted about 50 percent during the past 10 years.
In the Baltic states, the numbers show a mixed bag. Output in Estonia, the Baltic region's best-performing economy, is about 25 percent below 1989 levels. The bank says the economies of Latvia and Lithuania have both contracted by around 40 percent since 1989.
The EBRD says growth in the CIS will have to exceed that in Central and Eastern Europe for several generations if income levels in the former Soviet republics are ever to catch up with those in Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic.
The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent based in Prague.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty