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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 84, 01-05-02

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. 5, No. 84, 2 May 2001


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] WORLD BANK AGREES NOT TO WITHHOLD LOAN FOR ARMENIA
  • [02] ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT PROPOSES BUDGET AMENDMENTS
  • [03] AZERBAIJAN CREATES ECONOMIC SUPER-MINISTRY
  • [04] AZERBAIJAN, TURKEY SIGN ANOTHER MILITARY COOPERATION AGREEMENT
  • [05] AZERBAIJAN, DAGHESTAN TO CONTINUE TALKS ON WATER-SHARING
  • [06] AZERBAIJANI SECURITY OFFICIAL ACCUSES IRAN
  • [07] GEORGIA CLAIMS OWNERSHIP OF IMPOUNDED ARMS SHIPMENT
  • [08] COURT HEARING ON GEORGIAN COUP PLOT BEGINS
  • [09] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SEEKS ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR MILITARY
  • [10] PRESIDENT DENIES KAZAKHSTAN'S GOVERNMENT WILL BE AXED
  • [11] KYRGYZ POLICE THWART MAY DAY MARCH IN BISHKEK...
  • [12] ...ARREST DEMONSTRATORS IN SOUTH
  • [13] TAJIK PRESIDENT ENUMERATES PRIORITIES
  • [14] OSCE OFFICIAL VISITS TAJIKISTAN
  • [15] TURKMEN OFFICIAL FINED FOR SMOKING

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [16] MACEDONIANS ATTACK ETHNIC ALBANIAN SHOPS, HOMES
  • [17] ALBANIAN EMBASSY IN SKOPJE UNDER FIRE
  • [18] POWELL PLEDGES BACKING FOR MACEDONIA'S TRAJKOVSKI
  • [19] TWO MILOSEVIC BACKERS ARRESTED IN SERBIA
  • [20] SERBIAN ACTIVIST: MILOSEVIC REGIME DESTROYED EVIDENCE OF ATROCITIES IN KOSOVA
  • [21] BOMB BLASTS BOSNIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC OFFICE
  • [22] HERZEGOVINIAN PROTEST
  • [23] CROATIAN CONSULATE OPENED IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA
  • [24] CROATIAN LEADERS MARK MAY DAY
  • [25] EU'S COLD SHOULDER FOR CROATIA?
  • [26] BUCHAREST ENVIRONMENT SUMMIT CALLS FOR REGIONAL COOPERATION
  • [27] ROMANIA, MACEDONIA SIGN BASIC TREATY
  • [28] WORLD BANK TO SUPPORT ROMANIAN RURAL DEVELOPMENT
  • [29] ROMANIAN, MOLDOVAN PRESIDENTS ON BILATERAL RELATIONS
  • [30] SEVERAL THOUSAND TURN OUT FOR MAY DAY PROTEST IN SOFIA
  • [31] BULGARIAN PRESIDENT IN BRUSSELS

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [32] RUSSIA'S JUDICIARY: THE ARBITRATION COURTS' PROBLEMS

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] WORLD BANK AGREES NOT TO WITHHOLD LOAN FOR ARMENIA

    In a statement released on 30 April, the World Bank confirmed that it will disburse at least the first two tranches of a new $50 million Structural Adjustment Credit intended to cover half of Armenia's anticipated budget deficit for this year, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The loan was originally pegged to the successful completion of the privatization of four state-owned energy distribution networks, the sale of which collapsed last month after all four international bidders withdrew (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2001). The third and final loan tranche will be contingent on the privatization of the four networks, which the Armenian government hopes to complete by the end of this year. LF

    [02] ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT PROPOSES BUDGET AMENDMENTS

    The Armenian government submitted to the parliament on 30 April a bill that would provide for the use of $16.2 million from the proceeds of the privatization of state assets towards servicing Armenia's $114 million debt to Russia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Moscow has rejected Armenian proposals either to reschedule that debt or to accept in partial payment a 50 percent stake in Armenia's largest thermal power station. LF

    [03] AZERBAIJAN CREATES ECONOMIC SUPER-MINISTRY

    President Heidar Aliev issued a series of decrees on 30 April abolishing the economic, trade, and state property ministries, the Anti-Monopoly Commission, and the Agency for Foreign Investment, Turan reported. In their place, Aliev established a new Ministry for Economic Development and appointed to head it the former Minister for State Property, Farhad Aliev. LF

    [04] AZERBAIJAN, TURKEY SIGN ANOTHER MILITARY COOPERATION AGREEMENT

    Azerbaijan's Deputy Defense Minister Gorkhmaz Garaev and the head of the Turkish armed forces logistical service, Kurshud Tolon, signed a protocol on cooperation in Baku on 28 April, Turan reported. Tolon also met on 28 April with Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev and on 30 April with President Aliev, with whom he shared his impressions of Azerbaijan's armed forces and Azerbaijani military facilities he had visited. Aliev for his part expressed gratitude for the ongoing contribution by Turkey to strengthening Azerbaijan's armed forces. President Aliev also met on 30 April with visiting Turkish gendarmerie (Interior Ministry troops) commander Aitaj Yalman. LF

    [05] AZERBAIJAN, DAGHESTAN TO CONTINUE TALKS ON WATER-SHARING

    Daghestan cabinet Chairman Hizri Shikhsaidov told ministers in Makhachkala on 28 April that talks will continue on the division between Daghestan and Azerbaijan of the waters of the Samur River, which flows across the Russian- Azerbaijani border, Glasnost-North Caucasus reported on 30 April. At present, Azerbaijan accounts for 90 percent of the usage of water from the Samur and Daghestan only 10 percent. Shikhsaidov said Daghestan will demand a 50 percent share of the waters as the population of southern Daghestan is already experiencing a shortage both of drinking water and of water for agricultural needs. LF

    [06] AZERBAIJANI SECURITY OFFICIAL ACCUSES IRAN

    Speaking at a seminar in Baku on 1 May, Deputy National Security Minister Tofig Babaev accused Iran and unspecified Arab states of sponsoring radical Islamist sects in Azerbaijan with the aim of stirring up social unrest and overthrowing the Azerbaijani leadership, Turan reported. He claimed that to date some 7,000 people in Azerbaijan have converted to Wahhabism. LF

    [07] GEORGIA CLAIMS OWNERSHIP OF IMPOUNDED ARMS SHIPMENT

    Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Gela Bezhuashvili said in Tbilisi on 1 May that the planeload of arms intercepted and impounded in Burgas on 26 April is Georgian property (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2001). He said Tbilisi had purchased spare parts for artillery systems from the Czech Republic. Bezhuashvili was at a loss to explain why the Ukrainian plane transporting the materiel had landed in Burgas to refuel, and why the crew said the cargo was destined for Eritrea. He also denied reports that the cargo consisted of Kalashnikovs and submachine guns. The Czech Foreign Ministry confirmed on 1 May that it had authorized the arms shipment to Georgia, but Thomas CZ commercial manager Jan Decky told CTK that his company had only sold Georgia howitzers, not the submachine guns and ammunition reported by Bulgarian media. LF/DW

    [08] COURT HEARING ON GEORGIAN COUP PLOT BEGINS

    The trial of former senior Defense Ministry official General Gujar Kurashvili and nine other people accused of plotting to assassinate Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and seize power opened at the Georgian Supreme Court on 30 April, Caucasus Press reported. The alleged plotters were arrested in May 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 1999). LF

    [09] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SEEKS ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR MILITARY

    President Shevardnadze on 30 April charged the Finance Ministry with drafting and submitting to the National Security Council a special program to finance reforms that would bring the Georgian armed forces in line with NATO standards, Caucasus Press reported. Senior officers have repeatedly complained that the army is badly underfunded (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report, " Vol. 3, No. 47, 8 December 2000). On 27 April, Deputy Defense Minister Nugzar Kevkhishvili was trapped for 15 minutes in an elevator when power supplies to the Defense Ministry building in Tbilisi were cut off because of nonpayment of bills. LF

    [10] PRESIDENT DENIES KAZAKHSTAN'S GOVERNMENT WILL BE AXED

    Speaking in Istanbul on 26 April at the summit of Turcophone states, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev dismissed rumors that he plans to fire the government of Qasymzhomart Toqaev, Interfax reported on 29 April. Nazarbaev said that government "will work for a long time, and not just this year." Nazarbaev had criticized several ministers on 13 April for either spending too much time in the former capital or for taking too many expensive trips abroad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2001). LF

    [11] KYRGYZ POLICE THWART MAY DAY MARCH IN BISHKEK...

    Police prevented the estimated 1,000 participants in a 1 May march in Bishkek from entering the city's central park to lay flowers at a statue of Lenin, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The march was organized by the opposition parties that aligned last month in the People's Patriotic Movement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2001). LF

    [12] ...ARREST DEMONSTRATORS IN SOUTH

    Police detained six of some 30 participants in a May Day demonstration in Djalalabad, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The demonstrators protested declining living conditions and called for the resignation of President Askar Akaev. Edil Korgoldoev, the local coordinator of the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights, was among those detained. LF

    [13] TAJIK PRESIDENT ENUMERATES PRIORITIES

    Delivering his annual State of the Nation address to both chambers of Tajikistan's parliament, Imomali Rakhmonov on 30 April expressed concern at the legislature's failure to complete the draft of the criminal procedure law, ITAR-TASS reported. He said repayment of the country's $850 million foreign debt is "under control," noting that improved tax collection would facilitate both repayment of that debt and financing the social sector. He said that the government is pursuing a tight monetary policy aimed at reducing inflation from last year's 60 percent to no more than 16 percent in 2001. Rakhmonov said that Dushanbe will continue to maintain "stable, strategic, and friendly" relations with Russia. LF

    [14] OSCE OFFICIAL VISITS TAJIKISTAN

    On a three-day visit to Dushanbe on 29 April to 11 May, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Chairman Adrian Severin met with President Rakhmonov, Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov, and parliament leaders. Severin noted progress toward democratization and political pluralism since the signing in 1997 of the peace agreement ending the civil war, according to Asia Plus-Blitz on 2 May, adding that he hopes security concerns will not preclude further progress in that sphere. He stressed that the economic and security issues facing Tajikistan can be successfully solved only through enhanced regional cooperation between the states of Central Asia. LF

    [15] TURKMEN OFFICIAL FINED FOR SMOKING

    Kakamurad Ballyev, President Saparmurat Niyazov's press secretary, has been fined one month's salary for smoking in public, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 May. Niyazov banned smoking in all public places last year. LF

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [16] MACEDONIANS ATTACK ETHNIC ALBANIAN SHOPS, HOMES

    The BBC reported on 1 May that Macedonian crowds attacked a mosque in Bitola the previous night. RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported that crowds of several hundred Macedonians stoned or burned dozens of Albanian homes and businesses. Police arrested several of the rioters. Police officials in Skopje said on 2 May that crowds of Macedonians attacked at least 15 Albanian-owned shops in Bitola for the second night in a row, dpa reported. Police added that an armed group fired on a police position near Lipkovo, northeast of Skopje, on 1 May. The government will meet on 4 May amid a security situation that a government spokesman described as a "delicate peace." PM

    [17] ALBANIAN EMBASSY IN SKOPJE UNDER FIRE

    Embassy officials said on 2 May that unknown persons fired at their building the previous night. Two bullets entered embassy offices. No one was injured. The Albanian Foreign Ministry will issue a statement later in the day, dpa reported. The Albanian government has condemned the recent attack on Macedonian forces by the UCK and called for dialogue between all the political parties represented in the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2001). PM

    [18] POWELL PLEDGES BACKING FOR MACEDONIA'S TRAJKOVSKI

    After meeting at the State Department with visiting Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said on 1 May that he supports Trajkovski's fight against "dastardly and cowardly acts from terrorists and terrorist organizations who are trying to subvert the democratic process," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2001). Powell added that his guest is "moving aggressively" to meet the legitimate concerns of the ethnic Albanian minority. Powell said, however, that he will not pressure Trajkovski to change the constitution, as many Albanians are demanding. Trajkovski wants the U.S. to declare the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK) a terrorist organization so that its members cannot receive U.S. visas or raise funds in the U.S. He and State Department spokesman Philip Reeker rejected UCK demands that the guerrillas join all-party talks under international mediation. Ethnic Albanian leader Arben Xhaferi did not go to Washington as planned because of the turbulent situation in Macedonia. PM

    [19] TWO MILOSEVIC BACKERS ARRESTED IN SERBIA

    The private B-92 radio reported on 2 May that police have arrested Nebojsa Maljkovic and Milan Djurovic, who are leading members of the United Yugoslav Left of Mira Markovic, the wife of former President Slobodan Milosevic. They are reportedly in detention in Belgrade pending the outcome of an investigation of financial wrongdoing. Police have not confirmed the arrests, 1 and 2 May being holidays in Serbia, AP reported. PM

    [20] SERBIAN ACTIVIST: MILOSEVIC REGIME DESTROYED EVIDENCE OF ATROCITIES IN KOSOVA

    Natasa Kandic, whom many regard as Serbia's leading human rights activist, said in Belgrade on 30 April that "our investigations [of atrocities in Kosova in 1999] produced witnesses who can testify that many people were killed, their bodies buried only to be dug up again and later moved to another place... Certainly the removal of evidence on such a large scale cannot take place without the knowledge of authorities. We have many witness accounts, many terrible stories...but the orders for these actions could only have come from high up, such as from Serbian police," AP reported. In one example, she noted that "on the night of 17 May, some 87 graves of Kosovo Albanians killed in the first half of May and buried at the Djakovica cemetery were opened." It is not known what happened to the remains after they were removed. PM

    [21] BOMB BLASTS BOSNIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC OFFICE

    A bomb exploded on 1 May at the offices of the multiethnic Social Democratic Party in Vitez, a stronghold of hard-line Croats, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Much of the property was destroyed, "Oslobodjenje" reported, noting that it is not difficult to acquire explosives in Bosnia- Herzegovina. PM

    [22] HERZEGOVINIAN PROTEST

    Some 200 employees and depositors of the Hercegovacka Banka demonstrated in Mostar on 1 May to protest the international community's decision to sack the bank's governing body, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The international community took control of the bank recently to undercut the financial basis of the Herzegovinian hard-liners. PM

    [23] CROATIAN CONSULATE OPENED IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA

    Foreign Minister Tonino Picula opened his country's consulate in Banja Luka, "Jutarnji list" reported on 2 May. The office will promote Croatian business interests as well as facilitate refugee returns "in both directions." Zivko Radisic, the Serbian member and current chairman of the Bosnian Presidency, said that he knows that Croatian President Stipe Mesic would like to travel to Sarajevo by train (i.e., via the Republika Srpska) when he visits Bosnia later in May, "Oslobodjenje" reported. Banja Luka's economic links with Zagreb were traditionally stronger than those with Belgrade or Sarajevo. PM

    [24] CROATIAN LEADERS MARK MAY DAY

    President Mesic said in Zagreb on 1 May that the government has not fulfilled all its campaign promises to improve the social situation during its first year in office, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added, however, that the promises will be fulfilled, but did not say when. Prime Minister Ivica Racan told the same rally that the unemployed and the poor have a right to demonstrate against his government but not those who, as he put it, "plundered" the country during their 10 years in power under the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). PM

    [25] EU'S COLD SHOULDER FOR CROATIA?

    "Jutarnji list" published a poll on 2 May showing that support for Croatian EU membership in EU member countries is running at 31 percent for and 47 percent against. Among German respondents the figures are 24 percent for and 58 percent against, and in Austria the figures are 26 and 60 percent, respectively. The strongest support for Croatia came from Greece, where 55 percent of the respondents back Croatian membership. The strongest opposition is in France, where only 21 percent want Croatia to join the EU. In all EU member states, 29 percent want Yugoslavia in the EU, but 49 percent do not. Some 27 percent favor Macedonia's admission, but 49 percent oppose it. Some 27 percent want Bosnia in the EU, but 50 percent do not. PM

    [26] BUCHAREST ENVIRONMENT SUMMIT CALLS FOR REGIONAL COOPERATION

    The final declaration of the 29-30 April Bucharest summit on environment and sustainable development calls for the support of regional and international cooperation for improving the environment in the region of the Danube and the Carpathian Mountains, Romanian media reported. The action also suggests that the 14 states that signed the declaration should promote initiatives for common development programs and include environmental protection clauses in their economic programs. The states should also initiate partnerships between local private companies, public administration, and NGOs. Summit co-Chairman Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, called for finding compromises so that the Danube and the Carpathians fulfil a double role: being an economic source for the region and a reservoir for biodiversity, pure water, and food. ZsM

    [27] ROMANIA, MACEDONIA SIGN BASIC TREATY

    Romanian President Ion Iliescu and his Macedonian counterpart Boris Trajkovski signed a political treaty in Bucharest on 30 April aimed at boosting bilateral relations, Mediafax reported. Iliescu said the treaty facilitates Macedonia's consolidation, the maintenance of its territorial integrity, and its stability. He added the treaty sets the framework for bilateral cooperation amidst the two countries' European and NATO integration efforts. The treaty also provides for the protection of ethnic minorities in both countries. Iliescu stressed that Romanian authorities consider ethnic Romanians living abroad as "loyal citizens of the states they reside in." He also explained that the treaty uses the term "Republic of Macedonia" as Macedonia's Constitution uses that term, and that this wording does not affect the two countries' relations with other countries from the region. Greece has strongly protested against Skopje's intention of using the name "Macedonia" and the international community generally uses the term "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia." ZsM

    [28] WORLD BANK TO SUPPORT ROMANIAN RURAL DEVELOPMENT

    World Bank Director for Romania and Bulgaria Andrew Vorkink and Romanian Finance Minister Mihai Tanasescu signed an agreement on 1 May aimed at supporting rural development and reducing poverty, Romanian media reported. The $80 million will be used for crediting farmers for activities that bring about rural development. ZsM

    [29] ROMANIAN, MOLDOVAN PRESIDENTS ON BILATERAL RELATIONS

    Meeting in Bucharest on 1 May, Romanian President Iliescu and his Moldovan counterpart Vladimir Voronin said bilateral relations between the two countries should be addressed in a "pragmatic" way, Mediafax reported. Iliescu said "political and ideological" differences should be left behind and that bilateral economic relations should be increased. In an interview with the private ProTV station on 30 April, Voronin said Russian is not an official language in Moldova, but a second language of communication. He also said that Moldova's intention of joining the Russia-Belarus Union "does not mean a distancing" from Romania or the West, but serves his country's economic interests. Voronin also met Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and Chamber of Deputies Chairman Valer Dorneanu. Observers note that Voronin's visit comes in the wake of a visible approach to Russia by Moldova, as Voronin made his first visit abroad to Moscow on 16-17 April. ZsM

    [30] SEVERAL THOUSAND TURN OUT FOR MAY DAY PROTEST IN SOFIA

    Police estimate that 6,000 people rallied in Sofia on 1 May to protest against the policies of the government of Bulgarian Premier Ivan Kostov, AP reported. The protesters, most of them supporters of the opposition Socialist Party, accused the center-right government of corruption and of increasing unemployment with its stringent economic reform measures. Protest organizers claim some 15,000 people attended the rally. Socialist Party member Georgi Parvanov told the crowd: "We demand a new social policy where priorities have to be set on education and health care." Unemployment stands at about 18 percent in Bulgaria. PB

    [31] BULGARIAN PRESIDENT IN BRUSSELS

    Petar Stoyanov said upon returning from a trip to NATO headquarters in Brussels on 30 April that he is satisfied with Bulgaria's progress toward membership, BTA reported, citing the daily "Sega." Though no official statement was available regarding the visit, the Bulgarian press was sanguine on the trip and the general chances of the country gaining membership. The daily "Trud" wrote: "If the West has a geo-strategic interest in this country, an invitation for Bulgaria to become a NATO member can be expected next year." The newspaper "Demokratsiya" headlined an article "NATO Membership Cheaper Than Self-Defense." And "Bulgarska Armiya" wrote that Brussels "appreciates Bulgaria's progress toward membership." PB

    [C] END NOTE

    [32] RUSSIA'S JUDICIARY: THE ARBITRATION COURTS' PROBLEMS

    (Part 2 of a two-part series; see Part 1 in "RFE/RL Newsline" 26 April, 2001.)

    By Sophie Lambroschini

    Arbitration courts are called upon to hear some of Russia most important cases -- at least in terms of money. Set up eight years ago to settle conflicts between companies and the state, or between one company and another, the arbitration courts are regularly pulled into privatization battles or takeovers worth millions of dollars. They are now key players in the process of property distribution in Russia. But at the same time, they display all the failings of Russia's ordinary courts, and that scares away potential investors.

    Analysts say that arbitration judges, who formerly specialized in Soviet economic conflicts, are considered more efficient than the broad-ranging judges who hear criminal, administrative, and civil cases. But, the analysts add, the arbitration judges suffer from the same failings that undermine trust in Russia's overall judiciary.

    Oleg Fyodorov serves as an adviser to two nongovernmental organizations that seek to protect the rights of Russian stock investors -- the National Association of Securities Market Participants and the Investors' Rights Association. He has followed several arbitration court cases that involved Russian or foreign investors in conflict either with the state or major Russian companies. He says that, in his experience, the courts are biased in favor of wealthier, more influential parties.

    "The most important problem is probably that the court is called 'arbitration' but is not an arbitrator at all," Fyodorov said, noting that it is almost unheard of for a lesser known party - even if the law is in its favor -- to win an arbitration case against a large, influential party.

    As a result, Fyodorov said, many Russian companies try to file their arbitration suits abroad. "When they really want the court to have some influence, they don't even trust our highest jurisdictions, neither the Supreme Court nor the Supreme Arbitration Court," Fyodorov said.

    Fyodorov explained that while bribe-taking does exist, pressure on judges is usually exercised in a more indirect and subtle way. He says that often it's not money but administrative pressure that will make the judge capitulate.

    For instance, said Fyodorov, one of Russian investors' biggest grievances is that it's almost impossible to win a case against the Moscow city government. He says that's not because the city government is paying each and every judge a bribe. Rather, according to Fyodorov, the real reason is that the city government regularly pays judges significant bonuses to supplement their very low salaries.

    This financial dependence exists in most of Russia's regions as well, with judges not only beholden to local government for their apartments but sometimes also for basic utilities like electricity.

    Russia's projected judicial reform, drafted by presidential aide Dmitrii Kozak, seeks to address this problem by raising judicial salaries in an effort to abolish judges' dependence on local authorities.

    Another measure that should be taken, according to Supreme Arbitration Court head Veniamin Yakovlev, is that the number of arbitration judges should be increased to address their courts' increasing workload. In an interview earlier this year in the daily "Vedomosti," Yakovlev said the arbitration courts' workload has increased "since the late 1990s" by 15 percent.

    But some important failings of the arbitration courts are not expected to be eliminated any time soon.

    For instance, under Russia's imperfect bankruptcy laws, bankruptcy suits can be filed automatically if there's a proven debt of more than $1,400 and courts must start proceedings almost immediately, according to Yakovlev. This system, under which the arbitration courts become the instruments of redistributing property, leads to many cases of illegal property transfers, Yakovlev said.

    For arbitration courts to minimize such misuse of the law, judges need to increase their qualifications in an ever-changing economic and legal environment, according to Yakovlev. He urges that arbitration judges, and courts, seek to specialize in specific areas.

    Xavier Barre heads a European Union TACIS aid program that is providing instruction over two years to some 700 arbitration court judges, and calls Russia's training of judges "two weeks every two years" insufficient. But he stresses that judicial reform will not make any significant progress in Russia until it tackles a very touchy subject -- the state's accountability for its own mistakes.

    "There's a lack of legal fundamentals. There's no [notion] of administrative fault, of state accountability, the way we understand it in French or in other Western law," Barre said. "And when there is no fault, it is impossible or at least difficult to convict."

    He also points out that that there is no law on the state's responsibility in economic relations. As a result, he says, companies are helpless against routine administrative harassment that can paralyze them.

    Kozak's planned judiciary reform is attempting at least to lessen the grip of the Prosecutor-General's Office in purely business conflicts. Kozak says the projected arbitration procedure code adopted in a first reading by the Duma in April would strip the prosecutor of his right to protest an arbitration court decision if the adversaries are private companies settling a bilateral business conflict.

    But the Prosecutor General's Office opposes any reduction in its authority. Badir Kekhlerov, deputy prosecutor-general, says his office is the last barrier against court corruption

    "Today we are being banned from protesting to the Supreme Arbitration Court," Kekhlerov said. "We're talking about few cases -- 100, 200 a year. But in those cases [when we intervene] all the courts have sold out [to monied parties], and we come to the conclusion that the state's interests are being violated and that it is necessary to go all the way to the highest jurisdiction."

    However far the projected judicial reform may go, presidential adviser Fyodorov points out that the system will work efficiently only under a new generation of judges, appointed and formed under a more democratic and more honest system. Of the present judges, educated under Soviet rule, he says: "They have the old system in their blood. and you can't overcome that with reforms or with money."

    Sophie Lambroschini is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow.

    02-05-01


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


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