|Wednesday, 20 February 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 76, 01-04-19
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 5, No. 76, 19 April 2001
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING TRIAL SUSPECT REQUESTS LAWYERNairi Hunanian, the leader of the five gunmen who shot eight senior Armenian officials in the parliament building in October 1999, on 18 April demanded the services of a lawyer, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Hunanian had previously insisted on conducting his own defense. Also on 18 April, the prosecution submitted to the court documentation related to Hunanian's repeated claims that he was subjected to torture during the investigation into the shootings in order to pressure him to implicate President Robert Kocharian, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, and former presidential staff head Aleksan Harutiunian, Noyan Tapan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2001). The prosecution said that an investigation conducted in June 2000 failed to substantiate Hunanian's claims that he was tortured. LF
 ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO APPROVE TWO GOVERNMENT LEGISLATIVE INITIATIVESThe Armenian parliament on 18 April voted down a Justice Ministry bill setting new rules for the conduct of street demonstrations and protests that some opposition deputies claim violate the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of assembly, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Deputies also voted to reduce from four to three days the maximum period during which detainees may be held without criminal charges being brought against them, and approved amendments tabled by the Orinats Yerkir (Law-based Country) party that require that judges presiding over pretrial investigations grant bail on all charges that could lead to three-years imprisonment or less. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT DELEGATION VISITS MOSCOWAzerbaijan's parliament chairman, Murtuz Alesqerov, and Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev signed an agreement on 17 April establishing a permanent cooperation commission, ITAR-TASS reported. Referring to the Karabakh conflict, Alesqerov said there should be "no double standards" with regard to Azerbaijan, and that the Azerbaijani people will reject any proposed solution to that conflict that does not guarantee the country's territorial integrity and grant the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic autonomous status within Azerbaijan. Stroev for his part argued for adhering to "the golden rule of noninterference in the affairs of other states." Stroev expressed approval of the recent extradition of two Chechens from Azerbaijan to Russia, and noted that following Azerbaijan's acceptance in January 2001 into full membership of the Council of Europe, Russia now has "an ally" within that organization. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT RESTRICTS EXPORTS OF SCRAP METALHeidar Aliev issued a decree on 17 April temporarily banning the export of both ferrous and nonferrous scrap metal, Turan reported. The previous day, the Cabinet of Ministers had imposed export duties of $5 per ton for ferrous and $15 per ton for nonferrous scrap metal. Almost 1.5 million tons of scrap metal worth $5.7 million were exported last year, the agency said. LF
 GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS POSTPONEDThe 20 April session of the UN-sponsored Coordinating Council for the Abkhaz conflict has been postponed due to the ongoing stalemate in talks on the release of 13 persons detained or taken hostage in Abkhazia over the past 10 days, Georgian Minister for Special Assignments Malkhaz Kakabadze told Caucasus Press on 17 April. Also on 17 April, UN special envoy for Abkhazia Dieter Boden informed Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze about his meeting the previous day with Abkhaz officials to try to secure the release of those detained. Georgian "Forest Brothers" guerrilla leader David Shengelaia again offered to release the five conscripts his men captured on 12 April in exchange for five detained Georgian fishermen and three guerrillas held by the Abkhaz. The Abkhaz authorities have offered to swap the fishermen for the conscripts, but still refuse to release the three guerrillas whom they have identified as Georgian Interior Ministry officials. In a letter to Boden, Abkhaz Defense Minister Vladimir Mikanba accused Tbilisi of violating earlier agreements on preventing acts of terrorism in southern Abkhazia. Tbilisi claims to have no authority over either Shengelaia's Forest Brothers or the analogous White Legion guerrilla formation. LF
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DOWNPLAYS CONTROVERSIAL 'WASHINGTON POST' COVERAGEPresident Shevardnadze on 18 April attributed the criticism of him in the "Washington Post" by Georgian parliament Committee for Economic Policy Chairman Vano Merabishvili to the latter's youth and inexperience, Caucasus Press reported on 18 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 April 2001). Shevardnadze suggested that the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia faction of which Merabishvili is a member should decide what action, if any, to take against Merabishvili. Having initially said on 17 April that he was misquoted, Merabishvili conceded later the same day that the paper had accurately reproduced what he said. LF
 GEORGIAN, ESTONIAN DEFENSE MINISTERS SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENTDavid Tevzadze and his visiting Estonian counterpart Juri Luik signed a cooperation agreement in Tbilisi on 18 April, Caucasus Press reported. Luik stressed his willingness to share with Tbilisi Estonia's experience in negotiating the withdrawal of Russian bases from its territory. Luik also discussed the Russian troop withdrawal with Revaz Adamia, the former chairman of the parliament's Defense and Security Committee who now chairs the Union of Citizens of Georgia parliament faction. LF
 KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT OFFERS TO HOST AFGHAN PEACE TALKSUN special envoy for Afghanistan Francesc Vendrell told journalists in Almaty on 19 April that during talks earlier that day, President Nursultan Nazarbaev offered to host talks between both warring sides in Afghanistan in a bid to end the ongoing civil war, Reuters reported. Vendrell added that Nazarbaev's views on Afghanistan largely coincide with those of the UN. The Kazakh government held unofficial talks with the Taliban late last year. LF
 KAZAKH GOVERNMENT APPROVES 10-YEAR DEVELOPMENT PLAN...The government on 18 April approved the draft strategic plan for economic development over the next decade, Interfax reported. It will now be submitted to President Nazarbaev for his approval. The main aims are to expand the foundations of a market economy and double GDP by 2010 from this year's anticipated level of 2.88 trillion tenges (just under $20 billion). LF
 ...INCREASES SOCIAL SPENDING...Kazakhstan's prime minister, Qasymzhomart Toqaev, told parliament deputies on 17 April that of the 15 billion tenges earmarked in this year's budget as charter capital for the planned new Development Bank, 2 billion could be reallocated for social needs, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Parliament deputies had called for social spending to be increased by 10 billion tenges. Toqaev said that the cabinet will probably ask the legislature in September to raise budget targets for this year a second time. On 18 April, parliament voted in the first reading to increase budget revenues by 25 billion tenges to 437.5 billion tenges and expenditures by 28.4 billion tenges to 496.7 billion tenges. LF
 ...AS MOTHERS CONTINUE PICKET OF KAZAKH PARLIAMENTThe 40 women who began picketing the parliament building in Astana on 17 April to demand payment of overdue allowances continued their protest on 18 April, but deputies voted against allowing them to enter the building, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported Some of the women abandoned their protest on 19 April. LF
 ALMATY CEDES STATUS AS OBLAST CAPITALAlmaty City Mayor Viktor Khrapunov and Almaty Oblast Governor Zamanbek Nurqadilov discussed on 18 April President Nazarbaev's 14 April decree designating the city of Taldy-Qorghan as capital of Almaty Oblast instead of Almaty, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported (see "RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 14 April 2001). The Almaty city authorities will in future no longer provide financial subsidies for the new national capital, Astana, and will instead help to finance the move of the oblast's administration from Almaty to Taldy-Qorghan. LF
 KYRGYZ OPPOSITION SLAMS GOVERNMENT MEDIAIn a statement released on 18 April, leaders of eight opposition parties condemned what they termed the wholly negative coverage by state-controlled media of the demonstration convened by the opposition on 13 April in Bishkek, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Also on 18 April, the head of the Pervomai district police informed three of the meeting's organizers that they have been charged with organizing an unsanctioned public meeting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2001). LF
 TAJIK SUPREME COURT SENTENCES THREE INSURGENTSThe Tajik Supreme Court on 18 April sentenced to jail terms of 19-23 years three men accused of participating in the November 1998 coup attempt by rebel Colonel Mahmud Khudoiberdiev, Russian agencies reported. In two earlier trials, two participants of that uprising were sentenced to death in December 1999 and four more last year, and a total of 94 more received jail terms ranging from nine to 21 years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1999 and 25 October 2000). LF
 UZBEK, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTS DISCUSS GAS EXPORTSUzbekistan's president, Islam Karimov, has telephoned his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma to discuss possible routes for exporting natural gas from Central Asia to Europe and developing bilateral relations, ITAR- TASS reported on 18 April. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 POLL SHOWS MONTENEGRIN PRO-INDEPENDENCE COALITION LEADINGOn 19 April, the independent Belgrade weekly "Vreme" published extensive poll results on the views of Serbs and Montenegrins on their political future. In the run-up to the Montenegrin parliamentary elections on 22 April, the pro-independence coalition has 47 percent of the vote in Montenegro, while its pro-Belgrade opponent is likely to take 38 percent. Some 75 percent of eligible voters said they plan to cast their ballots. The results of an eventual referendum on Montenegrin independence, however, seem too close to call. The poll results suggest that much will depend on how the question is phrased and that many voters are still undecided. Most Albanians, Muslims, and Croats are solidly pro-independence, while most Serbs and "Yugoslavs" are pro-federation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2001). Among ethnic Montenegrins, 47 percent favor a federation and 41 percent would opt for independence. Montenegrins tend to have more confidence in Montenegrin than in federal institutions. The Montenegrin president and parliament lead the list with 51 percent confidence each. PM
 RUSSIA JOINING IN MONTENEGRIN ELECTION CAMPAIGN?Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told visiting Yugoslav Prime Minister Zoran Zizic in Moscow on 18 April that Russia wants Montenegro to remain as part of Yugoslavia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2001 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 March 2001). Ivanov stressed that "concerning the 22 April elections in Montenegro, I reaffirm that Russia firmly stands by its position that Yugoslavia's sovereignty and territorial integrity must be maintained," Interfax reported. Ivanov added that Moscow "welcomes the steps the current Yugoslav leadership of [President] Vojislav Kostunica is taking toward resolving the problems facing the country. The proposals the Yugoslav president has spelled out to advance federal relations are opening the way to settle the issues being debated in society." In the Serbian elections in the fall of 2000, Moscow backed former President Slobodan Milosevic and recognized Kostunica's victory only belatedly. PM
 MONTENEGRO'S BELGRADE LOYALIST HAILS RUSSIA'S STANCEZizic, who is a leading member of Montenegro's pro-Belgrade coalition, said in Moscow on 18 April that Russia's position means that "Montenegro's secession from Yugoslavia would not be recognized" by Moscow, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 5 and 12 April 2001). Zizic added that Montenegrin succession from Yugoslavia could trigger the appearance of "a conglomerate of dwarf states" in the region, causing, as he put it, "the disappearance of the Balkans from the political map of the world." PM
 SERBS SOLIDLY BACK KOSTUNICA"Vreme's" 19 April poll of Serbs suggests that Kostunica is far and away the most popular Serbian politician and that the Yugoslav presidency is the institution enjoying the most confidence in Serbia. Some 90 percent of the Serbian respondents have a positive view of Kostunica and 45 percent have more confidence in him than in any other politician. The presidency enjoys the confidence of 84 percent of the respondents, followed by the army with 78 percent. The governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia coalition would win 52 percent of the votes in a new election, followed by Milosevic's Socialists with 8 percent. Some 27 percent are undecided or not saying. PM
 NATO BREAKS UP KOSOVA SERB TAX PROTESTKFOR peacekeepers broke up roadblocks near the towns of Zvecan, Zupce, and Loziste at 6:00 a.m. local time on 19 April in order to restore freedom of movement, a KFOR spokesman told AP in Prishtina. In Zupce, peacekeepers used tear gas to disperse crowds of stone-throwing Serbs. One Serb was arrested. A French peacekeeper said: "They have the right to protest peacefully, but we will remove any roadblocks which hamper our operations." Many local Serbs are angry at the UN's decision to set up checkpoints to collect taxes on alcohol, cigarettes, and fuel (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2001). Local Serbian leaders claim that the tax collection efforts are aimed at reducing Kosova's links to Serbia. Belgrade set up customs points on its side of the border in February. PM
 MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT SACKS ALBANIAN POLICE CHIEFThe government fired Tetovo police head Rauf Ramadani on 18 April. It did not give a reason, but state-run television suggested that he had links to ethnic Albanian "extremists." AP reported that the sacking of Ramadani indicates that the government has become more confident since its recent military operations against the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (UCK). PM
 BOSNIAN PRESIDENCY SLAMS CROATIAN PARA-STATEThe three members of the joint presidency agreed in Sarajevo on 18 April that Croatian hard-liners' decision to set up what they call the "Croatian self-administration" poses a serious threat to the stability of Bosnia- Herzegovina. Presidency President Zivko Radisic said that the situation is not hopeless but that it is certainly difficult, "Oslobodjenje" reported. PM
 BOSNIAN DEFENSE MINISTER WANTS DOCUMENTS FROM PREDECESSORDefense Minister Mijo Anic, who is a non-nationalist ethnic Croat, has given his nationalist Croat predecessor Miroslav Prce until 25 April to hand over documents he kept or face a lawsuit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 19 March 2001). The documents deal with personnel, financial, and defense matters, "Dnevni avaz" reported on 19 April. PM
 DID HERZEGOVINIAN HARD-LINERS PROFIT FROM SFOR?"Oslobodjenje" reported on 19 April that Spanish SFOR officials paid "millions" of German marks to four Herzegovinians in an "illegal" deal to buy the Grmine base in Medjugorje in 1999. The daily suggested that SFOR has been involved in a cover-up in connection with the deal. PM
 SPANISH TELEVISION: BOSNIAN SERBS RUN ARMS BAZAAR UNDER SFOR'S NOSEEl Mundo TV has recently shown a two-part documentary, charging that Bosnian Serb army officers are selling heavy and other weapons to criminal and terrorist groups without any interference from SFOR, London's "The Guardian" reported on 19 April. Journalists posing as arms buyers for Colombian drug traffickers negotiated a deal to buy two Gazelle helicopters for $2 million each. Bosnian Serb arms dealer Veljko Borovina told the journalists that local police would not interfere because "we are the strongest people around here." He added that Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic would provide unspecified help "if anything goes wrong." Borovina urged the "Colombians" to make contact with Spanish SFOR to "carry the goods in their trucks to the port." He added that "the Americans are the ones who distribute most of the arms and drugs in this territory, so it would be better if they did not know [about the sale] and try to get in the way." Borovina wanted half the payment in cocaine. PM
 ROMANIAN SUPREME COURT ATTACKS LAW ON BUDGETThe Romanian Supreme Court requested the Constitutional Court to examine the recently adopted law on the 2001 budget, arguing on 18 April that the law is unconstitutional, Mediafax reported. The Supreme Court accused parliament of having discriminated against it, as deputies did not approve additional financing for the judges' salaries, while members of parliament were given additional funds. The judges argued that, according to the principle of separation of powers, the Supreme Court is supposed to have its own budget as part of the country's overall budget. They said the same principle is also breached by the fact that the court's budget needs to be approved by the Labor Ministry. In related news, Premier Adrian Nastase called two opposition parties' initiative to challenge the budget law in Constitutional Court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2001) an "irresponsible" act. ZsM
 MOLDOVAN PRIME MINISTER-DESIGNATE PRESENTS GOVERNMENT PROGRAMMoldovan Prime Minister-designate Vasile Tarlev on 18 April presented his government program, Moldovan media reported. The program provides for a strong state role in the economy -- even considering the introduction of state monopolies in certain areas. Economic targets include an annual 5 percent GDP increase, reducing inflation to 10 percent, and reducing the budget deficit to 1.5 percent. The program also provides for protection against "the artificial reduction of the functions of the Russian language in society." In an effort to prevent corruption, the cabinet intends to annul immunity for public officers. The program also provides for Moldova to join the economic structures of the Russia-Belarus Union. Parliament was to vote on 19 April on Tarlev's cabinet and proposals. ZsM
 NATO TO SET UP MEDICAL BASE IN BULGARIAThe daily "Standart" reported on 18 April that NATO is planning to equip a medical air force base in Bulgaria to handle emergency situations there. The base will be located at the Krumovo military air base near Bulgaria's second city of Plovdiv. The daily said that details of the project have already been agreed upon by NATO and the Bulgarian Defense Ministry. Two heavy transport MI-17 helicopters are to carry life-support equipment and be stationed at the base, which is slated to be operational in September when the multinational military exercise Cooperative Key 2001 is to take place. PB
 BULGARIA SEES INCREASE IN TOURISMDeputy Premier and Economy Minister Petar Jotev said on 19 April that the government expects the recent increase in tourism to continue, BTA reported. Jotev said that more than $1 billion was spent by foreigners on tourism in Bulgaria last year and that Bulgaria was among the top five countries in Europe for total number of foreign tourists. He added that foreign investment in tourism in the country last year was some $137 million and that more than 90 percent of the tourist industry has been privatized. PB
[C] END NOTE
 POPULATION CENSUS IN MACEDONIA TO BE POSTPONED?By Ulrich Buechsenschuetz
The recent violent clashes between Albanian guerrillas and Macedonian police forces raised questions whether the population census, which is scheduled for 15 to 30 May, should be postponed. The census and the process surrounding it have raised a number of politically sensitive issues.
At a meeting in March with Macedonian Foreign Minister Srdjan Kerim, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel said he doubts whether the Macedonian government has had enough time to prepare and conduct the census properly.
The expert for human rights of the OSCE Mission to Skopje, Eileen Simpson, discussed the issue with Macedonian Minister of Justice Xhevdet Nasufi, the Skopje daily "Dnevnik" reported on 11 April. Simpson stated that, given the present situation in Macedonia, it will be necessary that the population count be monitored by international experts. She urged the justice minister to postpone the census in order to give the international community more time to prepare the monitoring.
Whereas the OSCE seems to be mainly concerned with the organizational problems of the census, the two main ethnic Albanian parties in Macedonia -- the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) and the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) -- want the law on the census to be changed. "We hope that Minister Nasufi will propose a change of the law; his statements clearly indicate that [he will do so]. There are still displaced people, the atmosphere is still tense, and there is the possibility that political parties may call for a boycott. We don't want the results of the census to be questioned by anybody, and that is why we want an atmosphere of consensus [for the population count]," the coordinator of the PDSH's parliamentary faction said.
For his part, Naser Ziberi of the PPD noted: "If the census is held now, it will not be realistic and objective, and we will not recognize the results."
Although the newspapers did not mention it explicitly, there might be a connection between the government's plans to change the naturalization law, and the Albanian parties' demand for postponement of the census.
At the urging of experts from the Council of Europe, the UNHCR, and some other European institutions, the Macedonian regulations on citizenship will be changed soon, the Skopje daily "Vest" reported on 12 April. According to the present rules, foreign nationals must live in Macedonia for 15 years before they can become citizens. Large numbers of ethnic Albanians have come to Macedonia from Kosova and other parts of Yugoslavia within a period of time less than the past 15 years and hence do not qualify for citizenship. The planned new regulations, however, will cut the residency requirement to 10 years. The number of ethnic Albanians citizens in Macedonia will therefore certainly rise if the census is delayed until after the law on citizenship has been changed.
The government, however, does not seem inclined to postpone the census. Neither government spokesman Antonio Milosovski nor experts of the statistical bureau see any major difficulties for a regular population count at present. President Boris Trajkovski's council of experts, who met on 13 April, also said that there is no reason to postpone the census, as "Dnevnik" reported.
But matters have not stopped at Macedonia's borders. In an apparent attempt to divert attention away from its own polices, the government criticized the authorities in neighboring Albania, who began conducting a census on 1 April. As the Macedonian Information Agency (MIA) reports, Milosovski said: "We deeply regret that Albania failed to respect democratic principles by rejecting [Greek and Macedonian] ethnic minority demands to have a special [section on the census forms for questions on religion and national origin]." According to official Macedonian sources, about 350,000 Macedonians live in Albania, whereas Albanian authorities put that number at only 5,000.
The dispute about the census in Albania affects Macedonian party politics as well. According to "Dnevnik" of 11 April, the leader of the nationalist "Real Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization" (VMRO-vistinska or VMRO-VMRO), Boris Stojmenov, has demanded that the Macedonian census follow the Albanian model unless Tirana changes its policy. According to his proposal, Macedonian citizens would have to declare their ethnic identity as either "Macedonian" or "other."
Several newspapers have also criticized the recent Bulgarian population count (see, for example, "Dnevnik" of 9 March). Their reports are based on the views of the Bulgarian ethnic Macedonian party OMO Ilinden-Pirin to the effect the Bulgarian authorities have created an "anti-Macedonian hysteria" and allegedly planned to falsify the real number of ethnic Macedonians in Bulgaria.
Population counts in the Balkans have always fueled political or ethnic tensions -- internal as well as international. That general rule is unlikely to change in the near future.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty