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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 53, 01-03-16

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. 53, 16 March 2001


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN PRESIDENT, RUSSIAN BORDER GUARD CHIEF ASSESS COOPERATION
  • [02] ARMENIAN POLITICAL PARTIES ADVISE AGAINST MASS RALLY FOR LOST TERRITORIES
  • [03] ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER NAMED TO HEAD BILATERAL COMMISSION WITH RUSSIA
  • [04] TRIAL, SENTENCE ON FORMER KARABAKH DEFENSE MINISTER TERMED 'ILLEGAL'
  • [05] AZERBAIJANI DEFENSE MINISTER CALLS FOR GREATER COOPERATION WITH TURKEY
  • [06] AZERBAIJAN DENIES IT WILL SELL GAS AT DUMPING PRICES
  • [07] GEORGIA PROTESTS RUSSIAN BOMBING OF ITS TERRITORY
  • [08] GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS OPEN
  • [09] KAZAKH BUSINESSMAN CONVICTED OF ILLEGAL SALE OF MILITARY AIRCRAFT
  • [10] MORE REPRISALS AGAINST INDEPENDENT KYRGYZ PRESS
  • [11] KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTIES SET PRIORITIES
  • [12] SECURITY TALKS IN KYRGYZSTAN POSTPONED

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [13] MACEDONIAN MILITARY TRIES TO SMOKE OUT INSURGENTS
  • [14] MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES FIRST MOVES...
  • [15] ...TAKES STEPS TO TIGHTEN BORDER WITH KOSOVA
  • [16] MACEDONIA CALLS FOR NATO HELP
  • [17] STRONG SUPPORT FROM ABROAD FOR MACEDONIAN PEACE
  • [18] GERMAN ARMY SHORES UP POSITIONS IN TETOVO
  • [19] SERBIAN FORCES WITHDRAW TANKS NEAR PRESEVO VILLAGES
  • [20] PRESEVO ALBANIANS TO STAGE PROTEST RALLY
  • [21] SERBIAN PREMIER CALLS ON KOSOVAR SERBS TO VOTE
  • [22] YUGOSLAV AMBASSADOR FIRM ON ARREST OF MILOSEVIC
  • [23] SERBIAN HEROIN HAUL LINKED TO MILOSEVIC AIDE
  • [24] YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT DECLARES ANTI-NATO HOLIDAY
  • [25] DRASKOVIC SAYS SERBIA'S RULERS PRESERVING OLD ORDER
  • [26] CROATS IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA LAUNCH 'SELF-ADMINISTRATION'
  • [27] CROATIA NOT TO DEVELOP SPECIAL TIES TO MUSLIM-CROAT FEDERATION
  • [28] BOMB BLAST OUTSIDE ZAGREB CITY HALL
  • [29] EU MAINTAINS VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR ROMANIANS
  • [30] GOVERNMENTAL OFFICIAL RESIGNS
  • [31] MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT, GAZPROM AGREE ON DEBT PAYMENT
  • [32] DEPUTIES CONTEST VORONIN'S INTENTION OF HOLDING TWO SEATS
  • [33] EU LIFTS VISA REGIME FOR BULGARIANS
  • [34] BULGARIAN RULING COALITION NOT WORRIED ABOUT NEW PARTY

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [35] QUESTIONS FROM TETOVO

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN PRESIDENT, RUSSIAN BORDER GUARD CHIEF ASSESS COOPERATION

    During talks in Yerevan on 14 March, Robert Kocharian and Federal Border Service Director Konstantin Totskii positively evaluated the level of cooperation between the two countries in guarding Armenia's borders, Noyan Tapan reported the following day. Totskii also met with Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and National Security Minister Karlos Petrosian, and signed together with Finance and Economy Minister Vartan Khachatrian a protocol on estimates for the shared funding of the Russian border guard contingent in Armenia in 2001. LF

    [02] ARMENIAN POLITICAL PARTIES ADVISE AGAINST MASS RALLY FOR LOST TERRITORIES

    Four Armenian political parties -- the National Democratic Union, the National Unity Party, the Ramkavar-Azatakan Party and the pro-government Union of Veterans of the Liberation Struggle -- have rejected a proposal by presidential Human Rights Commission Chairman Paruyr Hairikian to stage a mass rally to pressure the government to call for the annulment of the 1921 Treaty of Kars, Noyan Tapan reported on 15 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March 2001). Nerses Zeinalvandian, who is chairman of the Union for Self- Determination that Hairikian founded, told journalists that while those parties largely agree with Hairikian's arguments, they consider it inexpedient to hold a mass demonstration at this juncture. LF

    [03] ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER NAMED TO HEAD BILATERAL COMMISSION WITH RUSSIA

    Armenian Prime Minister Markarian has appointed Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian as co-chairman of the Armenian-Russian Intergovernmental Commission on Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation, Noyan Tapan reported on 15 March. LF

    [04] TRIAL, SENTENCE ON FORMER KARABAKH DEFENSE MINISTER TERMED 'ILLEGAL'

    Three attorneys who defended General Samvel Babayan and several other men accused of the March 2000 bid to assassinate the president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Arkady Ghukasian, claimed on 14 March that the six-month trial proceeded in gross violation of the enclave's new judicial system, effective since January 2000, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 15 March. The lawyers argued that Babayan and 15 other defendants were tried and convicted by the Soviet-era Supreme Court, which was to be disbanded in line with legislation enacted in Karabakh in late 1999. Babayan was sentenced to 14 years in prison after a Supreme Court judge found him guilty of masterminding the apparent attempt on Ghukasian's life. Four other defendants received jail terms ranging from 13 to 14 years, while eleven more got off with suspended sentences. Officials at Ghukasian's office in Stepanakert declined to immediately comment on the lawyers' statement. LF

    [05] AZERBAIJANI DEFENSE MINISTER CALLS FOR GREATER COOPERATION WITH TURKEY

    Colonel General Safar Abiev, who is accompanying President Heidar Aliev on his official visit to Turkey, met in Ankara on 15 March with the Turkish Army General Staff to discuss regional security, Turan reported, citing an Azerbaijani Defense Ministry press release. Abiev said during that meeting that Turkey and Azerbaijan should join forces against their "common enemies, " and advocated a more prominent role for Turkey in the South Caucasus. Lieutenant General Nusret Tasdeler, whom Turan identified as head of the strategic department of the Turkish General Staff, said that stability in the South Caucasus will be possible only after a solution to the Karabakh conflict is found that preserves Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. Tasdeler praised the level of bilateral military cooperation between the two countries, adding that it must be strengthened. LF

    [06] AZERBAIJAN DENIES IT WILL SELL GAS AT DUMPING PRICES

    Speaking in Ankara on 15 March, Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister Abid Sharifov denied that Turkey has agreed to pay less that $30 per thousand cubic meters for the natural gas it will purchase from Azerbaijan, Turan reported. He said no price was stipulated in the interstate agreement signed in Ankara earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 March 2001), but that the price would be in excess of $48 per million cubic meters. Reports circulating prior to the signing said Turkey would pay less than world prices, but President Aliev subsequently denied those reports. LF

    [07] GEORGIA PROTESTS RUSSIAN BOMBING OF ITS TERRITORY

    The Georgian Foreign Ministry issued a formal protest on 16 March after a Russian jet dropped a bomb near a Georgian border post on the frontier with Chechnya two days earlier, Caucasus Press reported. No one was injured in that attack, which was the third in Georgia since the beginning of hostilities in Chechnya in the summer of 1999. On 15 March, the head of the press service of the Russian air force, Colonel Aleksandr Drobyshevskii, denied that any Russian combat planes had violated Georgian airspace on 14 March, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

    [08] GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS OPEN

    UN Special Representative Dieter Boden told the first session of Georgian- Abkhaz intergovernmental talks in Yalta on 15 March that he hopes the two- day meeting will contribute to "confidence-building" contacts between Georgian and Abkhaz NGOs -- including those representing veterans, journalists, regional elders, and women -- in order to dispel mutual mistrust and facilitate the peace process, AP reported. Abkhaz Prime Minister Vyacheslav Tsugba expressed concern at the international community's failure to condemn the recent upsurge of attacks by Georgian guerrillas in Abkhazia's Gali Raion, Caucasus Press reported. Tsugba also called for the signing of the "Agreement on Peace and Non-Resumption of Hostilities" and the "Protocol on the Repatriation of Displaced Persons" that have been under discussion since 1998, and which he said would reduce tensions in the region. Georgia recently declined to sign the most recent draft of those documents (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 5). LF

    [09] KAZAKH BUSINESSMAN CONVICTED OF ILLEGAL SALE OF MILITARY AIRCRAFT

    The Baikonur City Court on 14 March sentenced InfraKo company Director Bolatbatyr Esmaghambetov to 12-years imprisonment for having illegally sold an AN-12 military cargo plane to Congo last year, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported the following day citing the Kazahstan Today news agency. The National Security Ministry established that the plane, which was valued at $1.5 million, was sold for $35,000. The plane was later returned to Kazakhstan. Esmaghambetov's lawyers told journalists they will appeal the verdict in the Qyzyl-Orda Oblast Court. LF

    [10] MORE REPRISALS AGAINST INDEPENDENT KYRGYZ PRESS

    Melis Eshimkanov, who owns the opposition newspaper "Asaba," told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 15 March that officials began confiscating the paper property's, including about 3,000 kilograms of newsprint stored at the Uchkun publishing house, which printed "Asaba" until ordered to cease doing so earlier this month. Subsequent issues of "Asaba" were printed jointly with a second opposition paper, "Res Publica," which, however, has no paper reserve of its own. Eshimkanov faces criminal proceedings unless he pays fines totaling several thousand dollars in damages. Also on 15 March, the bank account of Eshimkanov's paper "Asaba-Bishkek" was frozen. According to chief editor Bermet Bukasheva, the most recent edition on 14 March, which contained articles criticizing President Askar Akaev and his family, was bought up in its entirety of 5,000 copies by unknown persons early on the day of publication. LF

    [11] KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTIES SET PRIORITIES

    Meeting in Bishkek on 15 March, representatives of the parties of Ar-Namys, El, Erkindik, Kairan-El, Republican, and Communist parties identified as their most pressing priorities campaigning for the release of imprisoned opposition politicians and the defense of the freedom of the press, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The chairman of the Party of Communists, Absamat Masaliev, told RFE/RL by phone that his party and the Ata-Meken Party will join that campaign. LF

    [12] SECURITY TALKS IN KYRGYZSTAN POSTPONED

    A meeting in Bishkek of the chiefs of General Staff of the five Shanghai Forum member states (Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan) scheduled for 15 March was postponed at Beijing's request until early April, ITAR-TASS reported. The meeting was to have discussed the military and political situation in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan intended to ask at the talks for more material and technical assistance to counter an anticipated new attack this summer by Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan fighters. LF

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [13] MACEDONIAN MILITARY TRIES TO SMOKE OUT INSURGENTS

    Artillery pounded a mountain near Tetovo with incendiary shells in an effort to smoke out ethnic Albanian rebels, "The Guardian" reported on 16 March. The daily added that ethnic tensions between Slavs and Albanians in the town have become open and ugly. Many Slavs have fled. The authorities have sacked the ethnic Albanian police chief and replaced him with a Macedonian, dpa reported. OSCE representative Carlo Hungaro met with leaders of the opposition Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP) and urged them to help quiet the situation. Hungaro said that he "does not agree completely" with PDP leader Ymer Ymeri's views but added: "I do not think that the PDP is involved in the armed conflicts." PM

    [14] MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES FIRST MOVES...

    The Macedonian authorities agreed in Skopje on 15 March to set up two bodies to deal with the crisis. One will coordinate efforts to limit the spread of the violence, while the other will seek to "eliminate the crisis, " dpa reported. The authorities did not declare a state of emergency. An Interior Ministry spokesman nonetheless told "The Guardian" of 16 March that the rebels have a quality and quantity of weapons equal to those of the government forces. PM

    [15] ...TAKES STEPS TO TIGHTEN BORDER WITH KOSOVA

    In Skopje on 15 March, the Macedonian authorities discussed a series of measures to tighten the borders with Kosova. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said of the rebels: "At first we thought they were just criminals...but it now seems that they have strong political and logistic support from some [unspecified] structures in Kosovo," Reuters reported. The border defense zone will be expanded from 500 meters to 3 kilometers, Deutsche Welle noted. The authorities "ordered" local media not to rebroadcast foreign television programs, especially those from Kosova, Tanjug reported. In Prishtina, U.S. Balkans envoy James Pardew told Emrush Xhemaili, who heads the People's Movement of Kosova (LPK), not to support the insurgents and instead to concentrate on Kosova's problems, Reuters noted. PM

    [16] MACEDONIA CALLS FOR NATO HELP

    The Macedonian government has asked Germany for military equipment and weapons, dpa reported on 16 March. Prime Minister Georgievski appealed to his Greek counterpart Kostas Simitis to use his influence to "ask NATO to directly confront the terrorists," AP reported from Athens. The Macedonian authorities have repeatedly asked NATO to intervene directly against the rebels (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 March 2001). Speaking in the Greek capital on 16 March, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said that the alliance "takes the situation...very seriously indeed" but has no mandate to intervene. He added: "I don't believe that the government in Skopje wants a military involvement by NATO." Robertson noted that the alliance will soon appoint a special envoy to the area. "The Guardian" reported that "NATO officials are skeptical that Macedonia's tiny army, which has no combat experience, can snuff out the insurgency. Its air force has three helicopters." PM

    [17] STRONG SUPPORT FROM ABROAD FOR MACEDONIAN PEACE

    Meeting in Vienna on 15 March, Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo and his Yugoslav counterpart Goran Svilanovic jointly condemned the violence in Macedonia, "Die Presse" reported. The two also expressed support for Macedonia's territorial integrity. Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero- Waldner said that "extremists" must not be allowed to jeopardize the chances for Balkan stability following the change of government in Belgrade last October. Elsewhere, the EU, NATO, France, Germany, Russia, and the U.S. all expressed concern. French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said in Paris, however, that he does not expect the situation to degenerate into a Bosnian-style conflict, Reuters reported. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer is due in Macedonia on 16 March to discuss the crisis. He said in Berlin the previous day that it is important that "extremism and violence don't get a chance." Kosovar moderate leader Ibrahim Rugova said after meeting with Fischer that he "expects Macedonia to take steps to find out what problems the Albanians have there." PM

    [18] GERMAN ARMY SHORES UP POSITIONS IN TETOVO

    German peacekeepers based in Tetovo have stepped up security precautions and reinforced the defenses around their quarters, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 16 March. PM

    [19] SERBIAN FORCES WITHDRAW TANKS NEAR PRESEVO VILLAGES

    As part of the NATO-brokered cease-fire with the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac (UCPMB), Serbian forces pulled back tanks and artillery from around Lucane on 15 March, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March 2001). Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said "there is no need for tanks, considering that we have signed a statement of a cease-fire," Reuters reported. The Serbian press center in Bujanovac announced that, in place of the tanks, an anti- terrorist unit had gone into the area "to assume responsibility for the protection and safety of citizens." U.S. Balkans envoy James Pardew said the withdrawal of the tanks "shows the goodwill of the government here and the military." Local ethnic Albanian human rights activist Shaip Kamberi stressed that "the withdrawal will have a calming influence and the population will feel much safer." PM

    [20] PRESEVO ALBANIANS TO STAGE PROTEST RALLY

    Alarmed by the re-entry of Serbian forces into part of the formerly demilitarized security zone along the frontier with Kosova, leaders of two ethnic Albanian political parties announced plans for a protest rally in Presevo on 17 March. The motto of the rally will be "give peace a chance against militarization and violence," Reuters reported on 16 March. PM

    [21] SERBIAN PREMIER CALLS ON KOSOVAR SERBS TO VOTE

    Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and Mitrovica Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic agreed in Belgrade on 15 March that Serbs should take part in the Kosova general elections widely expected later in the year, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The Serbs of Kosova boycotted the October 2000 local elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2000). Local representatives of the international community said that the boycott amounted to "self- imposed isolation." PM

    [22] YUGOSLAV AMBASSADOR FIRM ON ARREST OF MILOSEVIC

    Yugoslav Ambassador to the U.S. Milan Protic said in Washington on 15 March that he stands by his earlier statement that former President Slobodan Milosevic will be arrested by the end of the month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March 2001). Protic played down the importance of President Vojislav Kostunica's criticism of his remarks, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 March 2001). PM

    [23] SERBIAN HEROIN HAUL LINKED TO MILOSEVIC AIDE

    The 600 kilograms of 93 percent pure heroin found recently in a State Security bank vault were confiscated in 1997 by customs agents from smugglers, "The Guardian" reported on 16 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 March 2001). The operation was headed by Milosevic's customs chief Mihalj Kertes, in whose office police have found a small quantity of identical heroin. "Vreme" wrote on 15 March that this is the biggest scandal yet uncovered by the new Serbian authorities. The magazine asked whether the heroin was intended for Serbian youth or Western markets. "Vesti" wrote on 13 March that the quantity is too large for the small Serbian market, and that Yugoslav diplomats may have played a role in marketing the drugs abroad. PM

    [24] YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT DECLARES ANTI-NATO HOLIDAY

    The Yugoslav government on 15 March approved a request by Kostunica to make 24 March a legal Day of Remembrance. The date marks the anniversary of NATO's 1999 intervention to stop the Serbian ethnic-cleansing campaign in Kosova. Kostunica said in a letter that "our cooperation with NATO would be based on flimsy foundations if we try to act as if nothing ever happened in the spring of 1999," AP reported. He called the intervention "evil," adding that "we are obliged to recognize and remember the evil that was inflicted on us, as well as the evil that we inflicted on others." Kostunica frequently expresses the view that Serbs have been victims throughout history, but rarely, if ever, speaks of "evil" done by Serbs to others (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February 2001). PM

    [25] DRASKOVIC SAYS SERBIA'S RULERS PRESERVING OLD ORDER

    Vuk Draskovic, who heads the Serbian Renewal Movement, said Belgrade's new leaders are using "legalistic" arguments as an excuse to keep the Milosevic- era power structure largely in tact, "Vesti" reported on 16 March. "Jane's Intelligence Review" wrote on 2 March that the new leaders have cut deals with the old establishment, particularly with the police and the military. PM

    [26] CROATS IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA LAUNCH 'SELF-ADMINISTRATION'

    The governing body of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) issued a statement in Jajce on 15 March in which it called on party bodies at the canton level to begin setting up cantonal governments, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 March 2001). PM

    [27] CROATIA NOT TO DEVELOP SPECIAL TIES TO MUSLIM-CROAT FEDERATION

    Zdravko Tomac, who is deputy speaker of the Croatian parliament, said in Zagreb on 15 March that the government will not develop special links with the Muslim-Croat federation, as it is entitled to do under the Dayton peace agreement, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March 2001). Tomac stressed that Croatia wants to develop good relations with all of Bosnia. PM

    [28] BOMB BLAST OUTSIDE ZAGREB CITY HALL

    Zagreb police say that an explosive device placed in a garbage can outside City Hall damaged several cars on the morning of 16 March. No one was injured, Reuters reported. Police are investigating. PM

    [29] EU MAINTAINS VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR ROMANIANS

    The EU Council of Interior Ministers on 15 March decided to remove Romania, together with Bulgaria (see below), from the "blacklist" of countries with entry visa requirements, but Romanian nationals still need visas for entry into the EU, Mediafax reported. The ministers decided to maintain visa requirements until Romanian authorities fulfill all conditions for abolishing the visas. These conditions include tightened border controls, more secure travel documents, and prevention of illegal immigration from Romania to EU countries. If an EU report on the fulfillment of these conditions to be presented on 30 June has positive conclusions, Romanians could travel freely to the EU from this summer on. As Bulgarian citizens will already be allowed to do so beginning next month, Romania will be the only candidate country whose citizens will be required to obtain a visa for travel to EU member countries. ZsM

    [30] GOVERNMENTAL OFFICIAL RESIGNS

    Ovidiu Grecea, director of the Romanian government's Control and Anticorruption Department resigned from his office on 15 March, Radio Bucharest announced. Grecea announced that several members of the government wanted him removed from his office. Grecea on 9 March complained that, while examining dubious privatizations in Neamt county, he was closely watched by agents of the Interior Ministry's information service who tried to intimidate him. He accused the local commander of that service, Colonel Ioan Ouatu, of being involved in illegal privatizations. Interior Minister Ioan Rus on 13 March said Grecea's reports about being followed are "fairy tales," but admitted Ouatu's possible involvement in illegal affairs. The same day, Prime Minister Adrian Nastase warned Grecea that he was to present his report to the prime minister's office and not to the press. The Interior Ministry on 15 March announced that Ouatu was dismissed from his post for "professional" reasons. ZsM

    [31] MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT, GAZPROM AGREE ON DEBT PAYMENT

    Outgoing Moldovan Premier Dumitru Braghis and Gazprom Vice President Aleksandr Puskin on 15 March in Moscow agreed on the payment of a $10 million debt owed by Moldova-Gaz to the Russian gas company, Flux reported. Moldova-Gaz may pay off debt accumulated in the first two months of this year with food products, but must continue payment of gas delivered to the country thereafter. Previously, Gazprom has threatened to reduce, or even stop, natural gas deliveries to Moldova if payments are delayed. ZsM

    [32] DEPUTIES CONTEST VORONIN'S INTENTION OF HOLDING TWO SEATS

    Christian Democratic People's Party (PPCD) deputies Iurie Rosca and Vlad Cubreacov asked the Constitutional Court to express an opinion whether Moldova's president can also be the leader of a political party, Flux reported. They were motivated to make the request by Vladimir Voronin's declaration that, after being elected president, he will not give up his seat as Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) chairman. Although the constitution does not prohibit holding two seats, the contestants argue that article five of the constitution provides that "no ideology can be established as the official ideology of the state." The PCM holds 71 seats in the newly elected parliament. As it is the parliament that elects the president, and the necessary majority for electing the president is 68 votes, Voronin has a clear path to being elected. Voronin on 15 March announced that the first round of the presidential election will be on 4 April. ZsM

    [33] EU LIFTS VISA REGIME FOR BULGARIANS

    The justice and interior ministers of the EU agreed on 15 March in Brussels to lift visa requirements for Bulgaria, Reuters reported. The decision will allow Bulgarians to travel to any EU member state without a visa beginning at a still-to-be-determined date in April. The EU's Council of Ministers first made the decision to abolish the visa requirements for Bulgaria in December, but needed the approval of the parliament and the justice and interior ministers. In Sofia, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov said: "I think that Bulgarian citizens who travel will be considerate and avoid creating tensions by heading [en masse] toward Europe." Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova called the decision "a victory for Bulgaria. It took us many years of effort." PB

    [34] BULGARIAN RULING COALITION NOT WORRIED ABOUT NEW PARTY

    Members of Bulgaria's Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) said on 15 March that it maintains a majority in the parliament and sees no serious threat from the formation the previous day of the rival Parliamentary Group for Dialogue and Partnership (PGDP), Reuters reported. Several members of the UDF faction left their parties to form the PGDP, which has promised support for the return to politics of former King Simeon II (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 March 2001). Assen Agov, the chairman of parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, said "the UDF and its coalition partners have a sufficient majority to complete their term in parliament." The UDF and its junior partners hold 124 seats in the 240-seat chamber. Krassen Stanchev, the director of the Institute for Market Economics, an independent think-tank, said he doubts "whether [the PGDP] will be able to attract more than 4 percent" of the vote needed to enter parliament. A recent survey by the MBMD polling agency gives the UDF 21 percent support if elections were held now, while the Socialist Party has 16 percent, and a party backed by King Simeon II polls 12 percent. King Simeon II has not yet given his support to the PGDP. PB

    [C] END NOTE

    [35] QUESTIONS FROM TETOVO

    By Patrick Moore

    A Macedonian Interior Ministry spokesman told journalists on 14 March that the security situation there is "horrible." He added that "we have information that new flash points [of violence] could appear throughout the country" at any time. London's "The Guardian" wrote the next day that Macedonia appears "to be on the brink of civil war." These very serious developments serve to raise a series of questions regarding Macedonia's future in the short, medium, and long term.

    The first question that comes to mind is: Just who are these insurgents who have emerged in recent weeks to threaten the stability of probably the most strategically sensitive country in the Balkans? Their political wing says they want full equality for the 23 percent Albanian minority with the Macedonian majority, and the restructuring of Macedonia as a federation of two equal peoples -- all of which is a non-starter for the Macedonian leadership. But are the rebels of the National Liberation Army (UCK) a cohesive group, or are they a collection of diverse elements that may or may not coordinate their activities? To what extent do ex-guerrillas and money from Kosova play a role? Is the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac (UCPMB) active in exporting violence across the border? And is there a link between the insurgents (and their apparently well-stocked arsenals) and the notorious bands of smugglers and drug traffickers for which western Macedonia has long been known?

    A second question is: What support do the insurgents enjoy among the population? A few thousand nationalist supporters turned out in Tetovo on 14 March to applaud the sounds of gunfire in the hills, but that does not in and of itself suggest a groundswell of support for a violent insurrection that would put lives and property in jeopardy.

    It will be particularly interesting to see what the Macedonian authorities will do. Will they act quickly to isolate the rebels without polarizing society along ethnic lines? Will they move decisively to address long- standing Albanian grievances regarding civil, cultural, and economic rights, including access to government jobs and Albanian-language higher education? Will former President Kiro Gligorov and others in the opposition play a responsible role in the crisis, or will they attempt to wrong-foot the government the government for partisan political ends?

    This leads to a series of questions regarding developments in the medium term. Is it possible that a full-scale civil war could actually break out? Could Skopje become another Sarajevo or Mostar? Who would stand to gain from a major insurgency? Surely even the most hardened Albanian nationalist is aware that no mainstream party in Albania, Kosova, or Macedonia is prepared to support the insurgents, to say nothing of the international community (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 February 2001).

    Macedonia has its problems, but it looks like an oasis of prosperity to a traveler coming in from Albania. Macedonia's Albanians have their grievances, but these pale compare to what the Kosovars have endured for over a decade. One of the two leading Macedonian Albanian parties is in the present government, and its rival was in the last one. This adds up to much more access to political power than the Kosovars had under Milosevic or the Albanians of the Presevo Valley have now.

    And if Macedonia degenerates into civil war, what will be the effects on the region? The political and economic development of Albania and Bulgaria will most likely be adversely affected, and the jitters will probably extend to Greece and Turkey as well. Investors could be scared away from the Balkans as a whole, dealing a severe blow to the EU's Balkan Stability Pact, not to mention the EU's efforts, and those of others, aimed at conflict prevention and mediation. Finally, a panicked international community might turn up the pressure on Montenegro not to declare independence, even if a referendum shows strong support for it.

    And might not there be some in Belgrade who would see growing turmoil in Macedonia as favorable to Serbian interests? They could argue that a frightened Macedonian government would become a strategic ally against a "greater Albania" (even though no mainstream Albanian party anywhere endorses that concept). They could also say that NATO's inability to control the movements of rebel bands has been demonstrated, and that the alliance should leave the job to Belgrade and Skopje. Most importantly, international attention would become focused on "Albanian extremists and terrorists" and not on the extent to which Serbia's leaders and political culture have truly broken with the ways of the past.

    Finally, the prospect of civil war in Macedonia raises additional questions for the long-term future of the Balkans. What does it say about the future of multiethnic states in the region if Macedonia splits apart, despite careful attention by the international community over the years on behalf of a united and multiethnic Macedonia? Might a full-blown insurgency in Macedonia give credence to those who argue that many of the countries of the region will be unable to escape from a cycle of poverty, instability, and violence? And what would that suggest about the future of poorer post- communist states as a whole?

    16-03-01


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


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