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Voice of America, 02-01-04

Voice of America: Selected Articles Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Voice of America <gopher://>

SLUG: 5-50828 Serbia/Rule of Law DATE: NOTE NUMBER:





    INTRO: It has been fifteen months since former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was ousted from power. Now, democratic Serbia is still digging its way out of what observers say was the corruption and criminalization of society, that occurred during the 12 years of his leadership. V-O-A's Barry Wood reports from Belgrade on efforts to rebuild the rule of law in Serbia.

    TEXT: Gary Collins heads the Rule of Law department at the Belgrade office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. His office recently established a judicial training center, where prospective Serbian judges and prosecutors are being tutored in their professions. Mr. Collins, who has done similar work elsewhere in the Balkans, says for there to be judicial reform in Serbia, judges must be paid more money.

    ///COLLINS ACT///

    Judges can not live on 120 dollars per month. Any man or woman making 120 dollars a month will do what they have to do in order to survive. So you're talking about a predisposition to corruption. Does it exist? Absolutely. It can not not exist (under these circumstances).

    ///END ACT///

    By all accounts the judicial system in Serbia is in desperate need of repair. Commercial lawyer Dragan Karanovic says systemic overhaul is required. The current system, he says, is a patchwork where even superior courts can be over-ruled by lower tribunals.


    For us a big problem is that the judgement of the Supreme Court is not binding on the lower court. We really have to change that. Since any court can decide the very same matter totally differently.

    ///END ACT///

    A case in point: The central bank and the finance ministry recently launched proceedings against Bogoljub Karic, one of Serbia's richest men and a close associate of Mr. Milosevic. The government sought over 25-million dollars in back taxes from Mr. Karic, whose holdings include a television station, a bank, and a mobile phone company. After briefly fleeing the country, Mr. Karic returned to Serbia, after having obtained a lower court order overturning the government's charges. He remains a free man. Gary Collins says judicial reform in Serbia is going to be a painful and long-term process.

    ///COLLINS ACT///

    One of the most difficult projects for the international community will be to assist the judiciary in getting back up on its feet so that we can have the rule of law in Serbia, and indeed in all of Yugoslavia. Judges, unlike a police force, can't be revamped in nine or 12 months.

    ///END ACT///

    /// OPT ///

    Another commercial lawyer, Irish national Patricia Gannon, agrees that boosting pay is essential to reducing corruption.

    ///GANNON OPT ACT///

    We have to look at a judiciary that is very seriously under-paid and it hasn't attracted perhaps the best caliber of lawyer up until now. We have to make the profession more attractive to people and this is going to take time.

    ///END ACT////// END OPT ///

    While many Milosevic-era judges remain in place, several have retired and a speedier turnover is expected this year. Serbia's judicial system is short of everything -- from computers to skilled support staff. Public service in law has not been prestigious and the courts had little institutional power. Foreign legal experts concede that Serbia's judiciary is a mess and that reforms have been excruciatingly slow. But, they add, the system here is not that much worse than elsewhere in the region. (Signed)
    NEB/BW/GE/FC SLUG: 5-50824 Euro / Coin Collectors DATE: NOTE NUMBER:



    INTRO: Some of the new euro coins that were introduced this week are a bigger success than expected -- in fact collectors are buying and selling them, often far above their face value. Douglas Bakshian reports from Luxembourg that coins from smaller euro zone nations, like Luxembourg and Finland, have been in great demand.

    TEXT: Euro coins may look the same in the 12 countries where they are now legal tender. But look closely. There are differences. One side of each coin is distinctive and different from country to country, on the other side of each coin are national images, like a national leader or a distinct local plant. The paper money, however, is the same in every nation. These national differences in coins make the euros from smaller countries - like Luxembourg, population 440-thousand and Finland, with just over five-million people - quite rare and it turns out, very collectable. The Luxembourg coins, for instance, feature a profile of one of their national figures, Grand Duke Henri. The Finnish coins are more varied with three designs. /// OPT /// The two-euro Finnish coin shows cloudberries - a type of hardy wild raspberry - and their flowers; the one-euro Finnish coin reveals two flying swans; and the lower denomination coins feature the heraldic lion. /// END OPT /// Euro starter kits containing basic sets of coins were first issued in mid-December to help get people used to the new money. This apparently caused some intense on-line trading among coin collectors at E-bay and other Internet sites. Luxembourg collector Francois Besch says that when the Luxembourg kits first came out, they were bringing big money.

    /// BESCH ACT ///

    Luxembourg starter kits have been sold on on-line auction houses for up to 131 euro per kit, and the kit has been sold at the banks and the normal prices is 12-point-40 (euros). So they have been up to more than 10 times their value.

    /// END ACT ///

    /// OPT ///

    Mr. Besch is also a collector of antique enameled tin signs used to advertise products like Coca Cola, cigarettes, and laundry detergent. He follows on-line collector sites, and that is where he came across the Luxembourg euro starter kits. Sensing a good value - and a way to make some money - he says he has sold about 100 of them, but kept another hundred. /// END OPT /// According to Mr. Besch, starter kits for other small countries were also bringing high prices in the beginning, especially the euro coins from Finland.

    /// BESCH ACT ///

    You have starter kits for other countries, which are paid much higher than the Luxembourgish ones. For example, the Finnish starter kits have been paid up to 400 euro in the first days.

    /// END ACT ///

    But prices have dropped considerably. A recent check of E-bay showed asking prices for Finnish kits between 100 and 200 euros and many Luxembourg kits around 25 euros. The kits have to be in their original plastic issuing bags to have collector value. Regardless of price, the Luxembourg euro coin kits are making their way around the world - even to villages in Scotland. Nick Weston, a Scottish computer programmer who works in Luxembourg, says when he went home for Christmas to his village of Annan, population two-thousand, people were fascinated with the euro.

    /// WESTON ACT ///

    Everyone wanted to see the euro, everyone wanted to touch a euro, everyone wanted to know how much the euro worked out into (British) pounds. There was so much enthusiasm. /// OPT /// I thought the great opportunity to give the ideal Christmas gift to my father so I brought him back a little bag of euros. I think it was the best gift I ever got him. /// END OPT ///

    /// END ACT ///

    /// OPT ///

    Even Mr. Weston's mother was caught up in euro fever and proclaimed the new currency to be the greatest thing money-wise since the ancient Roman empire.

    /// WESTON ACT ////// OPT ACT ///

    On New Year's day she was celebrating the fact that the euro was, in her opinion, one of the greatest days Europe's had. And she was just ashamed that Britain wasn't part of it. She said it's the first time since the Roman Empire that we've actually had a single currency.

    /// END ACT ////// END OPT ///

    Britain, Sweden and Denmark are the three European Union countries not taking part in the euro. Despite about all the talk of gifts and collector sets, the Luxembourg government says the money is for use by consumers. Treasury Minister Luc Frieden says there are about 390-thousand Luxembourg starter coin kits and most of them were sold in the country.

    /// FRIEDEN ACT ///

    Well, these starter kits were not meant to be collection items, but they were meant to be used by the citizens, especially to buy smaller items and to use them in order to have not only major denominations of euro in circulation. /// OPT /// And I must say that 90 percent of these starter kits were sold in Luxembourg, there were about 390-thousand starter kits and that means that they will not be used for collection purposes, but that they will be used for purchasing.

    /// END OPT ///

    /// END ACT ///

    Whatever the popularity of the Luxembourg euro coins several local café operators say people are not using them enough. According to waiters and managers many customers have stopped tipping because they do not yet fully understand the value of the money and so they give exact change. Café workers hope this will change in a few weeks. (Signed)
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