|Monday, 8 February 2016|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 203, 01-10-25
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 5, No. 203, 25 October 2001Citing the Spanish newspaper "El Mundo," "Trud" on 24 October reported that Russian special services have said that terrorist leader bin Laden has provided $10 million to Chechen militants. Meanwhile, an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" the same day said bin Laden sent money to Russian Muslims in the early 1990s. At that time, the paper said, bin Laden was viewed as "a hero" for his assistance to the anti-Soviet resistance in Afghanistan, but "in Russia they knew who bin Laden was already in 1991." Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov has repeatedly denied any connections with bin Laden (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 35, 22 October 2001). Other "informed sources" told ITAR-TASS that Chechen militant leader Khattab plans to send some Chechen militants to Afghanistan. PG The presidential representative to the Southern federal district, Viktor Kazantsev, told journalists in Moscow on 24 October that following what he termed "lengthy consultations," he has agreed to meet with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's representative, Akhmed Zakaev. He said those talks could take place within the next 10 days, and that they will focus on President Putin's recent proposals that the Chechen fighters lay down their arms and return to "a peaceful life" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2001). Zakaev confirmed that he has been in contact with Kazantsev on Maskhadov's instructions, but said the talks will address the return to Chechnya of displaced persons, the suspension of hostilities, and economic issues, according to Interfax. In an interview on 11 October with RFE/RL's Russian Service, Maskhadov said the Chechens will not surrender their arms as a precondition for beginning peace talks (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report,"
Vol. 4, No. 35, 22 October 2001). In Moscow, presidential aide SergeiYastrzhembskii warned that the upcoming talks should not be seen as "the beginning of a new dialogue," and that the Chechen side should "be guided by an understanding of tough political realities," ITAR-TASS reported. LF
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN PREMIER TO UNDERGO 'URGENT' MEDICAL TREATMENTDoctors in Paris have recommended that Armenian Premier Andranik Markarian undergo "urgent" nonsurgical treatment to improve the blood supply to his heart, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 24 October. Markarian, who is 50, underwent heart surgery in Yerevan two years ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2001). LF
 NEW U.S. CHAIRMAN OF OSCE MINSK GROUP VISITS ARMENIARudolf Perina, a former U.S. ambassador to Moldova who recently succeeded Carey Cavanaugh as the senior U.S. representative to the OSCE Minsk Group, told journalists in Yerevan on 24 October the U.S. remains committed to seeking a solution to the Karabakh conflict and to promoting stability in the South Caucasus, Noyan Tapan and Arminfo reported. Perina rejected as mistaken the perception that the mediation process is "frozen," pointing out that the Minsk Group has achieved a certain progress over the past year, and that meetings over that time period between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan proved "productive." Perina added that the Minsk Group must focus particular attention on the presidents' efforts to prepare public opinion in their respective countries for compromise. He also said he considers it "possible" that representatives of the unrecognized Nagorno- Karabakh Republic will join the negotiations at a later stage. Baku has consistently said the Karabakh Armenians should be allowed to participate in negotiations only if representatives of the former Azerbaijani minority do so as well. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT CASTIGATES OSCEAzerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev warned the visiting chairman of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Adrian Severin, in Baku on 23 October that Azerbaijan will resort to "military means" to restore its control over the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic if the OSCE Minsk Group fails to take "a principled position" and coerce Armenia to abandon what he characterized its insistence on either annexing the unrecognized enclave or securing its independence, according to Reuters and "Xalq qazeti" of 24 October, as cited by Groong. Armenia's position is in violation of international law, and the OSCE itself is similarly violating international law by failing to abide by its own insistence that the territorial integrity of its member states must be preserved, Aliev argued. He nonetheless reaffirmed his preference for a peaceful solution to the conflict. LF
 COUNCIL OF EUROPE INVESTIGATORS CONCLUDE THAT AZERBAIJAN HAS POLITICAL PRISONERSA team of human rights experts has concluded, in a report made public on 24 October, that a number of persons currently imprisoned in Azerbaijan qualify as political prisoners, Turan reported. The same experts also concluded that none of the Armenian cases they were asked to review merit that designation. Meeting in July with a Council of Europe monitoring group, President Aliev denied that there are any political prisoners in Azerbaijan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2001). LF
 TRANSCAUCASUS PARLIAMENT CHAIRMEN AFFIRM SUPPORT FOR ANTITERRORISM CAMPAIGNMeeting in Tbilisi on 23 October under the aegis of French Senate Chairman Francois Poncelet, Georgian parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania and his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts Armen Khachatrian and Murtuz Alesqerov adopted a joint statement affirming their respective legislatures' support for the international antiterrorism coalition, BS- Press reported. They also stressed the role of national parliaments in promoting a solution of regional conflicts based on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the region's states, and affirmed their readiness to promote economic cooperation and free trade. It is not clear how Khachatrian and Alesqerov reacted to Zhvania's proposal, reported by Turan on 23 October, to create a parliamentary assembly of GUUAM member states. Georgia and Azerbaijan are members of GUUAM but Armenia is not. LF
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SEES KEY ROLE FOR TURKEY IN SOUTH CAUCASUS SECURITY SYSTEMIn a lecture delivered at Yerevan State University on 24 October, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze suggested that the three South Caucasus states and Russia should convene a conference to discuss the establishment of a regional security system, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He said Turkey can play an important role "in building a new algorithm of regional cooperation, a natural component of which is national reconciliation," according to Noyan Tapan. LF
 GEORGIAN INTERIOR MINISTER SAYS SPANISH HOSTAGES STILL IN PANKISI GORGE...Two Spanish businessmen abducted near Tbilisi last November are still in the Pankisi gorge in northeast Georgia, Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze told a press conference in Tbilisi on 24 October, Caucasus Press and ITAR- TASS reported. The Georgian Interior Ministry was reported to have launched an operation to free the two men earlier this month after their kidnappers raised their ransom demand to $250,000 and threatened to kill the hostages if that sum was not paid within three days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 2001). LF
 ...DENIES CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER IS IN GEORGIAAt the same press conference on 24 October, Targamadze dismissed as "a lie" reports that Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelaev, identified as leader of the Chechen force said to have been involved in hostilities earlier this month in the Kodori gorge, was taken to Tbilisi by helicopter after having eluded the Abkhaz forces hunting for him, ITAR-TASS and Glasnost-North Caucasus reported on 24 October. Targamadze denied that Gelaev is in any region of Georgia under the control of the country's government. Interfax on 24 October quoted the independent Georgian TV station Rustavi-2 as reporting that residents of the Kodori gorge claimed that military vehicles had transported Chechen fighters out of the upper, Georgian-controlled reaches of the Kodori gorge, and that more than 20 wounded Chechen fighters are being treated at a hospital at the village of Azhara, also in the Georgian-controlled sector of Kodori. LF
 MORE PROTESTS IN GEORGIA OVER PLANNED INCREASE IN ELECTRICITY TARIFFSThe Georgian Antimonopoly Commission issued a statement on 24 October criticizing the planned increases in electricity tariffs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2001), about which it said it was not consulted, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian Trade Unions Chairman Irakli Tughushi similarly stated on 24 October that union members intend to organize protests against the planned hikes which, he said, will negatively impact the industrial sector and lead to an increase in unemployment. LF
 OSCE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY CHAIRMAN PROPOSES 'FRIENDS OF GEORGIA' GROUPMeeting on 24 October in Tbilisi with Georgian delegates to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, assembly Chairman Severin proposed the creation within the OSCE of a "Friends of Georgia" group, Caucasus Press reported. Severin said such a move is warranted given the "strategic significance" of Georgia in the South Caucasus. Such a group exists within the UN to promote a solution of the Abkhaz conflict. LF
 KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT EXPRESSES SUPPORT FOR POST-TALIBAN COALITION GOVERNMENT IN AFGHANISTANIn a telephone conversation on 24 October with Afghanistan's President Burhanuddin Rabbani, Nursultan Nazarbaev expressed his support for a post- Taliban Afghan coalition government under the aegis of the UN, and pledged to supply grain and other humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, Interfax reported. But Nazarbaev also warned the Assembly of Peoples of Kazakhstan the same day that a protracted conflict in Afghanistan could negatively affect Kazakhstan's economic growth and stability, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, members of Kazakhstan's Communist Party and the All-Union Party of Bolsheviks convened a press conference in Almaty at which they condemned the U.S.-led airstrikes against Afghanistan, which they said are destroying Afghanistan's statehood and killing innocent civilians, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. LF
 KAZAKHSTAN TO INTRODUCE STRICTER ANTI-ANTHRAX MEASURESSenior Health Ministry official Anatolii Belonog told a press conference in Astana on 24 October that his ministry, together with the Transport and Emergency Situations Ministry, will step up measures to prevent bioterrorism, Interfax reported. He said hospitals' preparedness to cope with outbreaks of "extremely dangerous diseases" has been raised, and reserves of medicines, vaccines, and serums are being stockpiled. Belonog said 17 cases of anthrax among humans have been registered in Kazakhstan this year, of which 15 occurred in South Kazakhstan Oblast. In almost all cases, he continued, the disease was contracted during the killing of infected animals. He said that as of 1 January 2001 there were a total of 1, 690 known sites where the carcasses of cattle infected with anthrax are buried; 25 of those sites are still in use. LF
 KYRGYZSTAN REGISTERS FIRST ANTHRAX LETTER SCAREViktor Zapolskii, the editor in chief of the independent Kyrgyz newspaper "Delo Nomer," told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 24 October that the previous day he received an envelope, mailed by an ethnic Russian, containing a white powder and a note with the word "jihad." A preliminary investigation established that the powder was harmless. LF
 MORE ISLAMISTS ARRESTED IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTANEight more persons identified as members of the Hizb ut-Tahrir movement were recently arrested in Osh Oblast with leaflets propagating the movement's ideology, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 24 October. All eight were ethnic Uzbeks. LF
 THREE TAJIKS KILLED BY MINE ON BORDER WITH UZBEKISTANThree residents of a village in northern Tajikistan were killed on the evening of 23 October by a mine laid along the border between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, Russian agencies reported. Uzbekistan began mining its border regions in 1999 to prevent incursions from Tajik territorry by militants of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, but in May 2001 undertook to inform the Tajik government of the location of those mine fields. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 NATO, EU WARN MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENTNATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said in Lisbon on 24 October that the Macedonian parliament's delays in enacting long-overdue constitutional changes could lead to a return to violence, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2001, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 October 2001). Noting that the parliament is about to begin debate on the reform package, Robertson added: "Today they will have in front of them enough business to concentrate their minds, and I expect them to deliver what was a solemn undertaking made by the leaders of the political parties" in the Ohrid agreement, which Macedonia's political leaders signed in Skopje on 13 August. But in the Macedonian capital on 24 October, legislators spent their time squabbling, and then adjourned until the following day. An unnamed EU official told Reuters: "It's make-or-break time for the peace plan. We will be applying maximum pressure to get these reforms approved by the end of the month." EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana was to arrive in Skopje late on 25 October to encourage politicians to speed up the reform process. PM
 LEOTARD: EU SHOULD TAKE ROLE IN SETTING BALKAN FRONTIERS...Francois Leotard, the EU's outgoing special envoy in Macedonia, told the French parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee that it is "Europe's task" to raise the question of frontiers in the Balkans, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported from Paris on 25 October. He added that "the Americans expect" the EU to take a leading role in Balkan affairs and have "not contested Europe's leading role" in resolving the Macedonian crisis. He noted that the time has come for the EU to take a clear stand on the future political status of Kosova and Montenegro. Leotard stressed that the EU needs to make the extent of its financial and military role in the region known to people in the Balkans and in the EU. He expressed regret that the EU-member states station troops in the Balkans as part of NATO, and not "under a European label." He did not say to what extent Brussels should take cognizance of the wishes of the Montenegrins and Kosovars in helping determine their futures. Many politicians and media in EU-member countries regularly use the word "Europe" to refer to the EU. PM
 ...FIGHTING COULD RESUME IN MACEDONIALeotard said in Paris that fighting could break out again at any time in Macedonia, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 25 October. He added that the recent handing in of weapons by ethnic Albanian guerrillas was nothing more than a "political gesture of good-will" and that many high- quality weapons remain in their possession. Leotard pointed out that, unlike in Bosnia, ethnically mixed marriages are not common in Macedonia, and that few Macedonians or Albanians know the other group's language. The two communities live side-by-side but lead separate existences, Leotard added. The Frankfurt daily reported that France's Alain Le Roy will succeed Leotard as the EU's representative in Skopje. It remains unclear who will replace Germany's Bodo Hombach as head of the Stability Pact when he leaves to return to private business. PM
 MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT TO MOSCOWPresident Boris Trajkovski will visit Moscow on 28-29 October for talks with his counterpart Vladimir Putin, ITAR-TASS reported from Moscow on 25 October. It will be the third meeting of the two presidents since the beginning of 2001. PM
 OSCE UNIVERSITY SET TO OPEN DOORS IN MACEDONIAFormer OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel said in Skopje that classes will begin at Southeastern European University in Tetovo on 20 November, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 24 October. The university has a rigorous curriculum meeting international standards, and offers instruction in Albanian, English, and Macedonian. Most of the prospective students have expressed an interest in law or business degrees. The university represents the OSCE's answer to long- standing Albanian demands for university-level education in their own language, while paying heed to Macedonian fears lest an Albanian-language university turn into a diploma-mill for nationalists, which many feel Kosova's Prishtina University became in the 1970s. PM
 MULTILINGUAL NEWSPAPER PUBLISHED IN MACEDONIAIn an effort to overcome the isolation and polarization of Macedonia's main ethnic groups, the newspaper "Gostivar Voice" began publication on 22 October with a print-run of 3,500 copies, the NGO Interethnic Project Gostivar said in a press statement. The monthly appears in Albanian, Macedonian, Turkish, and Romany editions. The newspaper has support from local and Dutch NGO's and from the Dutch government. It will be distributed for free. It raises issues often avoided by some other publications, including drug use, ecology, and the situation of local gays and lesbians. PM
 RUSSIA TO CUT FORCE IN KOSOVAMajor General Nikolai Krivenstov will shortly replace Major General Vladimir Kazantsev as commander of Russia's KFOR troops, ITAR-TASS reported from Moscow on 25 October. By 1 November, Russia will reduce the size of its contingent in Kosova from 3,600 to 2,000. PM
 YUGOSLAV AMBASSADOR: CORRUPTION IS ALL-PERVASIVEAmbassador Prvoslav Davinic, one of Yugoslavia's representatives to the EU's Balkan Stability Pact, told Deutsche Welle's Serbian Service on 23 October that corruption affects virtually every branch of life in Serbia, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. Davinic stressed that the international community must be forthcoming with sufficient assistance if the battle against corruption is to be won. He also noted the important role of the media in fighting corruption. Davinic argued that the corruption must be dealt with in an international context and not just in any one country alone. PM
 NATO SAYS BIN LADEN LINKS IN BOSNIA CUTSFOR spokesman Daryl Morrell told a press conference in Sarajevo on 25 October that "we do believe that thanks to excellent cooperation between Bosnian officials, SFOR, and NATO, the links in Bosnia-Herzegovina of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network have been disrupted," Reuters reported. He added: "We are not going to comment on any intelligence, specific threats, or operational details associated with the actions that have been taken." The previous day, Morrell said peacekeepers "disrupted" an unspecified "terrorist organization" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2001). PM
 BOSNIAN COURT SENTENCES SERB FOR RAPE CRIMESOn 24 October, a Sarajevo district court sentenced Dragan Stankovic to 10 years in prison for raping an unspecified number of "Muslim women and girls" in Foca early in the 1992-95 Bosnian war, Reuters reported. Judge Davorin Jokic added that Stankovic "is also charged with grave breaches of a Geneva convention on the protection of civilians during the war, as well as of breaching the additional protocol of the convention on the protection of victims of international conflict." Serbian nationalists have meanwhile renamed the ethnically cleansed town Srbinje. PM
 ROMANIA CHECKS ARAB FIRMS SUSPECTED OF TERROR LINKSThe U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Interpol have asked Romania to carry out checks on Arab-owned businesses suspected of links to terrorist groups, AFP cited police chief Florin Sandu as saying on 24 October. Sandu said that so far "we have no evidence proving any link between these firms and the funding of terrorist organizations," but added that the FBI and Interpol will be informed of the findings once the investigation is ended. MS
 WORLD BANK TO LEND ROMANIA $1 BILLIONBetween 2002 and 2004, the World Bank will grant Romania $1 billion in loans for rural and forestry development, as well as for different social projects, Johannes Linn, the World Bank's vice president for Europe and Central Asia, said after meeting in Bucharest with Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, Mediafax reported. Linn also said the bank's executive board recently approved $300 million in funds to support Romania's privatization process. He is in Bucharest to attend the second international conference of donors for the Balkan Stability Pact, which was to begin on 25 October. MS
 ROMANIAN SENATE COMMISSION APPROVES DEBATE ON LIFTING TUDOR'S IMMUNITYThe Senate's Judicial Commission on 24 October approved the request of Justice Minister Rodica Stanoiu that the Senate hold a debate on lifting the parliamentary immunity of Greater Romania Party (PRM) leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The approval has been forwarded to the Senate's Permanent Bureau, which must convoke a debate in the plenum within 15 days. The PRM boycotted the commission's discussions on the debate. In related developments, the PRM said on 24 October that it "disagrees" with the way the government is conducting discussions with Russia on concluding the pending basic treaty between the two countries. While in favor of "the best possible relations" with Moscow, the PRM said renouncing demands that the Romanian state treasury be returned to Bucharest and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact be denounced in the text of the treaty is against the country's interests. National Liberal Party (PNL) Chairman Valeriu Stoica also said neither of the two demands should be renounced. MS
 HUNGARIAN PARTY IN ROMANIA AGREES TO NASTASE'S SUGGESTION ON STATUS LAWThe Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) agrees with the proposal made by Premier Nastase that UDMR party cards should be used to register members of Romania's Hungarian national minority for the purpose of meeting Status Law conditions, UDMR Chairman Bela Marko told journalists on 24 October. Marko said Nastase's suggestion "would simplify procedure" for implementing the Status Law, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He also said the suggestion may lead to "reaching consensus" over the law between Bucharest and Budapest. However, Marko was criticized from within the UDMR's own ranks the same day. UDMR Honorary Chairman Bishop Laszlo Toekes said Nastase's proposal is "unacceptable," and the UDMR leadership should have rejected it, as not all members of the Hungarian minority in Romania are also members of the UDMR. He added that the proposal is reminiscent of the communist era, "when membership of the Communist Party" carried with it some special benefits, Mediafax reported. The proposal was also dismissed by UDMR Deputy Konya Hamar Sandor and by PNL Chairman Stoica, who said Nastase is "sacrificing national interests on the altar of party interests," as well as by officials in Hungary itself (see Hungarian item above). MS
 ROMANIAN POLL SHOWS PSD FAR AHEAD IN PARTY PREFERENCESA public opinion poll conducted by the Center for Urban and Rural Sociology shows the ruling Social Democratic Party would get 52 percent of the vote if balloting were to take place next week, Mediafax reported on 24 October. The PRM would garner 14 percent, the PNL and the Democratic Party 9 percent each, and the UDMR 7 percent. However, no less than 42 percent of respondents said they are "undecided" on how they would vote. MS
 VORONIN SAYS MOLDOVA MAY FACE DANGER OF POLITICAL CRISISPresident Vladimir Voronin on 24 October said Moldova's leadership "has no right to make mistakes," as these mistakes "may lead to a loss of power" and a "political crisis," Infotag reported. Voronin said the country needs political stability and if that stability is not achieved, Moldova may "disappear as a state, or, even worse, be taken over by the country's corrupt political clans." Marking the first six months of Vasile Tarlev's cabinet, Voronin told the presidential staff, the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists, and the government that the main tasks of the government are concluding accords with international financial institutions "to make up for lost time"; restructuring the country's external debt; submitting to the parliament a budget with clear indications on sources of revenue and expenditure; creating a business climate favorable for foreign investment; and uprooting corruption in the state apparatus. MS
 GAGAUZ-YERI REJECTS CHISINAU PROPOSALSPeter Zlatov, an adviser to the Gagauz-Yeri Popular Assembly, told Infotag on 24 October that the proposals received from Chisinau on how to overcome differences on the republic's autonomous status are "totally unacceptable." Zlatov said he believes the proposals are "a deliberate action" aimed at forcing Comrat to reject them, calling them "an insulting draft, which should never have left desks if Moldova really wanted to solve existing problems." Zlatov said Chisinau wants to grant the autonomous region "even fewer powers than those enjoyed by a county," and that it insists on the right to have a government-appointed representative in Comrat, whose prerogatives include the right to dissolve all Gagauz-Yeri political structures at any moment. He also said that by rejecting federalization, Chisinau "refuses to call a spade a spade," since a de facto federal structure has existed for several years now. MS
 BULGARIA TO CALL TENDER FOR UPGRADING MIG-29SDefense Minister Nikolai Svinarov said on 24 October that a tender for upgrading his country's fleet of 21 MiG-29 fighters will be held soon. Only three of these fighters are airworthy, due to a lack of spare parts, Reuters reported. Svinarov said the upgrades are part of the Bulgarian effort to bring its air force up to NATO standards. He also said no decision has yet been made on whether the tender will be an international one, but added that, in his own opinion, "all equipment that can be modernized in Bulgaria should be upgraded here." He said more than 10 companies, including several foreign companies, have offered to modernize the MiGs. Svinarov said that after modernization, the planes may be sold to finance the purchase of Western-made fighters. However, he said, another option is to upgrade some of the MiGs with NATO-compatible systems, making it possible to meet NATO requirements without replacing the entire fleet. MS
 BULGARIAN PREMIER CONTINUES BRUSSELS VISITBulgaria must take further structural measures to establish a fully functioning market economy, EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pedro Solbes told Bulgarian Premier Simeon Saxecoburggotski in Brussels on 24 October, AFP reported. Solbes said Bulgaria has managed to maintain macroeconomic stability and has made considerable progress in the privatization process, while also pursuing structural reforms. He said Saxecoburggotski has informed him on some envisaged reform initiatives of the government, including the reorganization of structures overseeing privatization and a reform of the tax system. He said the envisaged measures "show a strong will to tackle Bulgaria's economic problems." MS
 UN REPORT SAYS BULGARIA INTOLERANT OF HOMOSEXUALS, ROMAA report released on 24 October by the UN Development Program (UNDP) said Bulgaria "remains disturbingly intolerant" of homosexuals and Roma, although some progress has been made since 1988 in attitudes toward minorities, AFP reported. The report said 76 percent of Bulgarians do not want to have a homosexual as a neighbor and 50 percent do not want to live next door to a Rom. Intolerance toward Roma, however, dropped from 1998, when 78.3 percent said they did not wish to have a Rom as neighbor. The report said that in practice, interaction between Bulgarians and Roma occurs only in the poorest strata of society. It also said that in a number of schools, Romany children have been separated from Bulgarians "into differentiated and segregated classes." Bulgarians consider even former prison inmates preferable to Roma as neighbors, since only 47 percent replied in the UNDP survey that they do not want an ex-convict as a neighbor. Forty-five percent said they do not want to live next door to someone suffering from AIDS, and the same proportion would refuse to live next door to a drug addict. MS
[C] END NOTE
 IN ROMANIA, POVERTY COMPOUNDS POPULATION DROPBy Eugen Tomiuc
With some 22.5 million inhabitants, Romania ranks among the more populous countries in Central and Eastern Europe. However, like most other former communist states, Romania has experienced a steady population decline since the collapse of communism amid growing poverty, rising unemployment, and social turmoil. Disintegrating health care and social security systems also accelerated the first peacetime population decline on record in Romania.
In the 11 years since the fall of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's regime, Romania's population has shrunk by at least 415,000 people. The main factors behind the decline are high mortality rates, low birthrates, and massive out-migration. Despite a slight slowdown in the negative growth over the past few years, the decline continues and there are few indications of an early reversal.
Already poor in 1989, Romanians over the following decade only grew poorer compared to a majority of their East European neighbors as a result of difficulties in implementing market reforms.
With an average monthly income of some $100, Romania remains one of the poorest countries in Europe, and the benefits of a slight economic growth this year have yet to be seen by most poverty-stricken Romanians. "There is only one way out of this situation -- an improvement in the economic and social situation," said Professor Vasile Ghetau, one of Romania's leading demographers. "That would mean creating the resources to counter the negative effects of the process."
Birthrates between 1990 and 2000 have declined, by almost 6 newborns, to about 10.4 per 1,000 inhabitants. In addition, fertility rates also dropped from more than 2.2 children per woman in 1989 to 1.3 last year. In order to maintain the current level of population, fertility rates must be at a minimum of 2.1 children.
Compounding the problem is the fact that Romania still has one of the highest death rates in Eastern Europe -- excluding the countries of the Commonwealth of the Independent States -- after Bulgaria, Hungary, and Estonia.
An overall death rate of 11.4 per 1,000 inhabitants was reported in 2000, marking a slight increase compared to 10.5 in 1990 -- after a 12.7 peak in 1996.
In Romania's case, an additional cause for the sharp population decline was the 1989 abolition of Ceausescu's policy of forced birthrate growth. Contraception and abortion had been illegal during communism. As a result of clandestine abortions -- often performed in precarious conditions -- many women died and some doctors were jailed. Professor Ghetau said the restrictions had a considerable psychological impact on women, and that once the ban on abortion was dropped in December 1989, the decline in birthrates was much sharper in Romania than in other former communist countries.
Women apparently benefited from free access to contraception and abortion, as female life expectancy -- one of the lowest in Europe during communism -- grew over the last decade by more than two years to almost 75 years in 2000. Male life expectancy also rose by more than one year, to almost 68 years in 2000, after an abrupt decline in the first half of the 1990s largely due to an overall increase in unemployment, poverty, alcoholism, and crime.
Economic out-migration caused primarily by growing unemployment in industry is another main cause behind Romania's population decline, and accounts for some 230,000 people -- or more than half of the estimated population drop -- over the last 11 years. Many of the Romanians that left have settled abroad permanently and do not intend to return.
Although legal emigration has declined substantially in the last three years and accounted for only 4,000 people in 2000, an increasing number of those who leave the country are young, better educated professionals. Official figures on illegal emigration from Romania to Western Europe are unavailable, but are believed to be high.
Internal migration is also on the rise in Romania, but instead of the traditional flow from rural regions to more developed urban areas, it is traveling in the reverse direction. In the early and mid-1970s, at the peak of communist industrialization, hundreds of thousands of villagers were encouraged to move to cities and towns and become industrial workers in huge state factories.
But many of those workers -- who have since lost their jobs and were facing the growing cost of living in cities -- returned to the countryside, where they survive by practicing subsistence farming.
Over the last decade, Romania's successive left and center-right governments have been unable to come up with effective measures to counterbalance the population decline amid growing poverty and a near collapse of the health care and social security systems. The current social- democrat government of Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, which took over last December, has so far done little to stimulate family growth. A monthly child allowance is one of the few incentives the state offers to families with children, but its level amounts to only 4 percent of the average income.
Mihail Ciulcov, a deputy minister in Romania's Labor and Social Solidarity Ministry, said the government intends to increase that level to 10 percent over the next three years. "Currently, the value of the child benefit is 130,000 lei (4.5 dollars) per month per child, and for disabled children the amount is double," Ciulcov said. "Between 2001 and 2004, our government plans to increase the value of child benefits to 10 percent of the average salary ($10)."
With a median age of less than 35 in 2000, Romania's population is relatively young compared with that of Western Europe. Median age is expected to rise to 43 by 2005. However, because of the declining birthrate, the age profile is changing. This will result in the increase of the old- age dependency ratio -- of retired people to working population -- which is expected to increase from 19 percent last year to 21 percent in 2005. While the ratio is still lower than in Western Europe, Romania's economy -- with a per capita GDP of only some $1,700 -- can barely sustain even a slight increase in the number of pensioners.
Along with the aging of the population, experts also foresee a change in the future social fabric of the country, as only 5 percent of the newborns over the past several years belong to women with medium or higher education.
Scientists and politicians alike point out that in the absence of a sustained economic recovery, little can be done to reverse Romania's population decline -- or quell the alteration of its social structure.
Eugen Tomiuc is an RFE/RL correspondent.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty