Accessibility links

Newsline - July 11, 1997




YELTSIN BLAMES FACTORY MANAGERS FOR ECONOMIC WOES

In his weekly nationwide radio address, President Boris Yeltsin has blamed much of the country's economic crisis on unscrupulous and incompetent factory directors, Russian media reported on 11 July. Yeltsin said many bosses were either incapable of coping with new market conditions or were siphoning off profits for their own enrichment. The Russian president noted that 80 percent of overdue wages were owed by inefficient enterprises, not by the state, and he urged workers and shareholders to use their newly acquired stakes to get rid of incompetent directors. Yeltsin said he had ordered First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov to prepare a government program to select 5,000 new, senior-level managers and 25,000-30,000 middle managers annually. The most talented would be sent to study in the U.S., Britain, France, Italy, and Japan, according to Yeltsin.

GOVERNMENT WILL NOT BORROW TO PAY WAGE ARREARS

Economics Minister Yakov Urinson, who is attending the annual CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPEan Economic Summit in Salzburg, Austria, says Russia will not borrow more money to pay public-sector wage arrears by the end of the year. Urinson told reporters on 10 July that improved tax collection and better cooperation with regional leaders are expected to make up the shortfall. Yeltsin has ordered all overdue salaries paid by 1 January 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 1997). First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov said this week that the government will pay off 5.4 trillion rubles ($ 940 million) in back wages by September and another 25 trillion rubles ($4.3 billion) in other public-sector arrears by the end of the year.

CHERNOMYRDIN DECLARES INCOME

Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has declared his personal assets at $46,000, Russian media reported on 10 July. According to a statement submitted to the Tax Inspectorate, Chernomyrdin declared 46.4 million rubles ($8,000) in income for 1996. His assets include a small country house, valued at 156 million rubles ($27,000), and a Chevrolet Blazer utility vehicle, valued at 112 million rubles ($19,000). "Perhaps this is not in keeping with the spirit of the times, but I do not have any stock holdings. And I have no property abroad," Chernomyrdin told Interfax.

RUSSIAN BANK SELLS GOLD INGOTS

Rossiiskii Kredit has become the first Russian bank to sell gold ingot bars to private buyers, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 June. The sale follows the government's June decision to allow Russian citizens to purchase gold ingots at commercial banks. At least three other Russian banks--Inkombank, SBS-AGRO, and Gold-Platinum Bank--say they will follow suit.

RUSSIA IMPORTED BRITISH BEEF

Agriculture Minister Viktor Khlystun confirmed on 10 July that Russia has imported 730 tons of British beef, Russian media reported. The imports violate a worldwide ban imposed over fears of BSE, or "mad cow disease." Khlystun said the meat posed a danger to public health, but he added that the shipments would be hard to trace since they were officially marked as coming from Belgium. The European Commission recently said that 1,600 tons of British beef was illegally exported with Belgian help to Holland, Egypt, Russia, and Equatorial Guinea.

FSB CHIEF SAYS HOT LINE FOR SPIES YIELDS "FANTASTIC" RESULTS

Federal Security Service (FSB) director Nikolai Kovalev announced on 9 July that the "hot line" opened to allow Russian spies for foreign intelligence services to offer to become double agents has yielded "fantastic" results, ITAR-TASS reported. Kovalev said 298 confessed spies had called the FSB's hot line, and he described 80 of those calls as "very serious." He added, "We had feared that there would be a lot of calls from mentally ill people, but that did not happen."

INDONESIAN OFFICIAL IN RUSSIA

Indonesian Science and Technology Minister Yusuf Habibi failed to reach agreement on buying Russian warplanes during his recent nine-day visit to Russia, Western media reported. Habibi said at the end of his visit on 9 July that any final decision on buying planes would have to made in Jakarta. But according to Interfax the next day, Russia will help Indonesia develop its civilian nuclear power facilities. Russian Atomic Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov said he reached an understanding with Habibi whereby Russia will help build two reactors in Indonesia. He was confident that an agreement would be signed before the end of 1997 but noted that Russia still faces competition for the contract with firms from the U.S., Canada, and Japan.

CONFUSION OVER RESIGNATIONS OF CHECHEN OFFICIALS

Former radical field commander and defeated presidential candidate Shamil Basaev submitted his resignation as first deputy prime minister for industry on 10 July, Russian media reported. Basaev told Reuters in a telephone interview that he was resigning voluntarily. Speaking on Chechen television last month, Basaev had rejected rumors of his impending resignation and said his absence from cabinet sessions was due to ill health. AFP quoted Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov as saying that President Aslan Maskhahdov will not accept Basaev's resignation. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 July that Chechen Security Service head Abu Movsaev, said to be a close associate of Basaev's, has resigned "for family reasons." The next day, however, the agency reported that Movsaev has contacted the office of the Russian presidential representative in Grozny to deny he has resigned.

CHECHEN-RUSSIAN ECONOMIC AGREEMENTS SIGNED

Russian and Chechen representatives have finally signed a agreement on opening an account for the Chechen National Bank at Russia's Central Bank, Russian media reported on 11 July. The accord also allows Chechen banks to open branches abroad and foreign banks to open branches in Chechnya. The Chechen delegation brought back from Grozny the Russian-Chechen customs agreement, to which Maskhadov had added his signature. That document had been signed earlier by Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin. The signing of the two agreements removes the last obstacle to an accord between Russian, Chechen, and Azerbaijani oil companies on the transit of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via Chechnya.

VOLGOGRAD'S MOTHER RUSSIA STATUE IN DANGER OF COLLAPSE

The Mother Russia Statue in Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad), the most impressive World War II memorial to have been erected in the Soviet Union, is in danger of collapsing due to neglect, Russian media reported on 10 July. The 70-meter-high statue was erected some 30 years ago to mark the battle of Stalingrad, one of the turning points of World War II. But the gigantic concrete monument is now riddled with cracks, particularly on the head and along the 33-meter-long sword it holds aloft. The memorial's manager says only a complete restoration will save the statute from collapse but added that no money has been forthcoming so far.

TRANS-SIBERIAN RAILROAD TRAFFIC HALTED

Traffic along a 650-kilometer stretch of the Trans-Siberian railroad stopped for six hours on 10 July after a regional power company cut off electricity supplies, ITAR-TASS reported. The Chitaenergo company said the railroad owes it more than 30 billion rubles ($5.3 million). Railroad officials say the Trans-Siberian line is owed much more by government ministries and coal-mining companies. Service was resumed after a railroad official warned that coal shipments to heating and power stations in Chita Oblast would be imperiled by the cut.




RUSSIAN SPOKESMAN DENIES REPORTS OF ABKHAZ FIGHTING

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin on 10 July denied media reports that up to 20 guerrillas have been killed in fighting in the Kodori gorge, Interfax reported. Nesterushkin rejected as "libelous" claims that Abkhaz militants were transported to the region in a helicopter belonging to the CIS peacekeeping force. Abkhaz Defense Minister Vladimir Mikanba similarly dismissed as "fabrication" claims of increased tensions in the Kodori gorge region. Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba told AFP on 10 July that the situation is "critical" and that if the protocol outlining measures for resolving the conflict is not signed soon, there will be "serious consequences." Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba blamed Tbilisi for the delay, saying each time the Abkhaz were ready to sign the draft, the Georgian side insisted on new additions to the text.

ARMENIAN, TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET

Alexander Arzoumanian and Ismail Cem discussed bilateral relations in Madrid on 9 July within the framework of the NATO summit, according to the "Turkish Daily News" on 11 July. Arzoumanian denied media reports that Armenia has supplied anti-aircraft missiles to the PKK and said his government is ready to cooperate to investigate those allegations. Cem said that Ankara cannot agree to the Armenian proposal to economic cooperation with Turkey until a solution is reached to the Karabakh conflict.

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PAPER SUSPENDS PUBLICATION

Publication of "Ayzhm," the weekly paper of Vazgen Manukyan's opposition National Democratic Union, has been suspended indefinitely, according to Noyan Tapan on 10 July, quoting the paper's editor, Vigen Sargssian. Sargssian said the paper's owners have no funds to buy newsprint. Publication of "Ayzhm" was temporarily suspended last September following the attack on the Armenian National Assembly building in the wake of the disputed presidential elections.

GEORGIAN COMMUNIST SENTENCED

Vazha Khachapuridze, a former regional governor and one of the leaders of the United Communist Party of Georgia, was sentenced to five years in prison on 9 July for abuse of his official position and illegally creating a team of 15 bodyguards, "Akhali taoba" reported on 10 July. The Georgian Supreme Court rejected charges of treason and calling for the overthrow of the country's leadership, according to Interfax.

TAJIK COMMISSION SIGNS FIRST AGREEMENTS

The National Reconciliation Commission, which was officially set up following the signing of the 27 June peace treaty by the Tajik government and United Tajik Opposition, concluded its first session in Moscow on 10 July, RFE/RL correspondents in the Russian capital reported. The commission agreed on a "general forgiveness," meaning past enmities are to be forgotten, and signed an accord on a general amnesty that will allow members of the UTO to legally return to Tajikistan. Those opposition members who were imprisoned for political reasons or captured in military actions since 1992 are to be released. Excluded from the amnesty are those guilty of violent crimes and crimes against society. Those prisoners who believe they were found guilty of such crimes as a pretext to imprison them for their political actions have the right to request that their trial and the charges brought against them be reviewed.

PREPARATIONS FOR CHANGES IN POST-WAR TAJIKISTAN

The Tajik government and CIS border guards are preparing for the changes foreseen in the 27 June peace treaty for post-war Tajikistan, RFE/RL corespondents in Dushanbe reported. Border guards are making preparations for the return of refugees from Afghanistan, who will re-enter Tajikistan via two check points along the Tajik-Afghan border. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov has ordered medical workers to prepare for the influx, which may total up to 22,000 refugees from Afghanistan. Rakhmonov also announced that his country's armed forces are to be cut by 30 percent from their estimated current strength of 17,000. The money saved will be used to pay teachers and medical personnel, he said.

UZBEKISTAN ESTABLISHES STATE CUSTOMS COMMITTEE

President Islam Karimov has signed a decree ordering the creation of a State Customs Committee, Interfax reported on 10 July. The aim of the new body is to "improve customs policy" and "increase the role played by the customs services in stepping up the country's economic security." The committee is considered a law enforcement body directly subordinate to the government. It will be empowered to sign international agreements and treaties on customs, impose penalties for offenses against customs regulations, and provide evidence of offenses to the judicial organs. The decree cites the "unsatisfactory state of and irresponsible attitudes toward the maintenance and increase of working capital, which disrupt business links, facilitate non-payment of taxes, and are therefore likely to increase social tensions."




EU COMMISSION WANTS TO START MEMBERSHIP TALKS WITH FIVE EASTERN EUROPEAN COUNTRIES

The European Commission agreed in principle to recommend that the EU open membership talks with Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Estonia, and Cyprus, an EU spokesman told journalists in Brussels on 10 July. Some of the 20 EU commissioners had opposed offering membership to Slovenia and Estonia. The European Commission decision is expected to be confirmed in Strasbourg on 15 July, one day before the commission unveils individual advice to EU governments on which of 10 applicants from Eastern Europe qualify economically and politically for membership. Commissioners worked out a system enabling those states left out of the first enlargement wave--Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria--to be given a timetable for meeting the conditions of EU membership.

REACTIONS TO EU COMMISSIONERS' RECOMMENDATION

Estonian Prime Minister Mart Siiman on 10 July welcomed the European Commission recommendation. Siiman, who is attending the annual CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPEan Economic Summit in Salzburg, Austria, told Reuters that Estonians know they must now do everything possible to negotiate successfully through the accession process. Polish Deputy Prime Minister Marek Belka told journalists on 10 July he is "glad Poland is in." Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek told Reuters that his country had expected the decision. But Romanian President Emil Constantinescu told journalists that EU commissioners' recommendation is "hasty" and does not reflect the point of view of the heads of state and governments of EU member countries.

CZECHS WANT SLOVAKIA TO JOIN NATO, EU

Czech Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec told the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Czech parliament on 10 July that Prague has an interest in seeing Slovakia join the same security and economic structures as the Czech Republic, Czech Radio reported. Zieleniec said Slovakia's membership in NATO is a long-term goal of Czech foreign policy and that Slovakia's eventual entry into both the alliance and the EU is a necessity for Central European security. He added he believes Slovakia should be admitted into NATO during the alliance's planned second wave of expansion.

KUCHMA URGES IMF TO EXTEND LOAN TO UKRAINE...

President Leonid Kuchma, who is in Salzburg attending the CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPEan economic summit , met with a group of U.S. experts headed by Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs David Lipton, Interfax reported. Kuchma's press secretary told journalists that the president and U.S. experts discussed bilateral cooperation and Ukraine' contacts with international financial organizations. Kuchma stressed that Ukraine has met IMF requirements but has received no foreign aid in the first half of 1997. While he described certain economic decisions as "miscalculated," Kuchma noted that Ukraine has a "fair degree" of economic stability, pays its foreign debts on schedule, and keeps inflation "surprisingly low." Warning that economic reforms may trigger social tensions, Kuchma urged the IMF to honor its commitments to Ukraine by extending a loan worth up to $3 billion agreed on in late 1996 but delayed because of the slow pace of reform.

...BUT IMF DECIDES AGAINST LOAN

The IMF, however, says it will not be able to go ahead with that loan until more reforms are in place but that it will consider a regular one-year credit program, RFE/RL's Washington correspondent reported on 10 July. Sources at IMF headquarters in Washington said a delegation has just completed a review of Ukraine's situation. The fund has decided to give priority to a new one-year stand-by loan for Ukraine, and the IMF delegation will return to Kyiv within the next two weeks to work out details. IMF sources said the delegation is pleased with progress made this year, including low inflation and a stable exchange rate. However, they say more structural changes are needed before major loans can be approved.

BELARUSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER BLASTS RUSSIAN REFORMERS

Ivan Antanovich on 10 July accused reformers in Moscow of unleashing an "anti-Belarus campaign" following the decision of officials in Minsk to withdraw the accreditation of a Russian journalist. At a press conference in Minsk, Antanovich refused to name any officials, but observers say his comments were clearly directed at First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov. The previous day, Nemtsov said in Moscow that the stripping of the credentials of the Minsk bureau chief of Russian Public Television (ORT) violated the union charter signed by the two countries earlier this year. Nemtsov, who is critical of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's authoritarian policies, pledged that Moscow would protect the rights of its journalists abroad. Antanovich said that any pressure from Moscow would meet with "the same" from Minsk.

ESTONIAN PRESIDENT ON BORDER AGREEMENT WITH RUSSIA

Lennart Meri told journalists in Madrid on 9 July that he hopes a border agreement between Estonia and Russia will be signed this year, BNS reported. Meri said recent talks with Russia over the border issue were "constructive." Agreement was reached on the text of the border agreement last fall, but Moscow has since refused to sign a final document, citing technical problems and alleged human rights abuses in Estonia. Meri also commented that he could not understand "some psychological difficulties which Russia is experiencing over NATO expansion." He added that by 1999, when a second round of NATO expansion may be announced, Russia's stance has to change, just as its "current stance is different from that of a few years ago."

LATVIAN PRESIDENT WARNS OF GROWING ETHNIC TENSION

Guntis Ulmanis told the newspaper "Diena" on 10 July that signs of a growing split between the Latvian and Russian communities may lead to "increasing strains in relations rather than to integration" of society. He called for granting Latvian citizenship to all those born in the country, regardless of ethnicity. While saying that Latvia's citizenship law meets European standards, he urged "substantial and possibly rapid" changes to provisions that prevent people without Latvian citizenship from holding public office. Ulmanis also noted that provisions for granting citizenship on the basis of age quotas are "outdated" and preclude many older people from obtaining citizenship. Any change to the law in the near future is unlikely, however, since the major political parties have reached agreement to leave it intact for the time being. The Russian-speaking community makes up roughly one-third of Latvia's population.

U.S. PRESIDENT IN POLAND

Bill Clinton told some 5,000 cheering Poles in Warsaw's Castle Square on 10 July that Poland's destiny as a free nation at the heart of Europe is finally being fulfilled by joining NATO. Clinton arrived in Warsaw that day to congratulate Poland on being invited, together with Hungary and the Czech Republic, to join NATO. "Never again will your fate be decided by others -- Poland is coming home," Clinton said. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski told the crowd "We have always been friends, now we will be allies." In Kwasniewski's view the decision to expand NATO "changes the history of Europe and the world." Clinton arrives in Romania on 11 July.

FLOODS IN POLAND, CZECH REPUBLIC, SLOVAKIA CONTINUE TO WORSEN

The death toll in the worst flooding in more than a century in Poland and the Czech Republic is reported to have risen to more than 30. Waters receded in some northern Moravian districts but flooded towns in southern Moravia. Czech President Vaclav Havel visited the flood emergency center in Olomouc on 10 July and told reporters he is personally contributing 1 million crowns ($30,700) for flood relief. The Czech government has sent 5,000 soldiers to back up police to prevent looting in evacuated districts. In Slovakia, authorities declared a state of emergency in the spa town of Piestany and ordered the evacuation of some 10,000 inhabitants and tourists. Half of the Polish town of Opole is under water after the Odra River burst through a provisional dam. Authorities in Klodzko say floodwaters from the Nysa River are receding, leaving behind large quantities of mud and damage that will take four to five years to repair fully. Flooding is predicted for Wroclaw.

SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTIES ASK MECIAR TO RESIGN

Democratic Party leader Jan Langos and Christian Democratic Movement leader Mikulas Dzurinda told journalists in Bratislava on 10 July that Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar should resign because he is responsible for the failure of the country's foreign policy. Slovakia has been left out of the first wave of NATO expansion; and EU commissioners on 10 July declined to include Slovakia on list of six countries recommended to be invited to the first wave of EU accession talks. Meciar also drew criticism from President Michal Kovac, who said NATO's failure at the Madrid summit to even mention Slovakia for consideration in upcoming expansion talks was a "loss for the whole country."

HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT WANTS ELECTIONS IN MAY 1998

The cabinet proposed on 10 July that parliamentary elections be held in May 1998, Hungarian media reported. Government spokesman Elemer Kiss said parties could allocate maximum 1 million forints ($5,400) per candidate for the election campaign, while the campaign period would be reduced from 90 to 72 days. Some 2 billion forints would be allocated to the Interior Ministry this year for preparing both the elections and a referendum on NATO membership. The government also proposed that after 1998, elections take place every four years in April.

NATO EXPECTS MILITARY REFORMS IN HUNGARY

U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said in Budapest on 10 July that Hungary must meet financial and military obligations in order to join the alliance, Hungarian media reported. He said the U.S. would pay only $150-200 million of the estimated $27-35 billion needed in the next 13 years for the accession of Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland. Hungary's defense budget must be raised to 2.1-2.2% of GDP, Cohen concluded. Hungarian Defense Minister Gyoergy Keleti said it could take 10 years until the country upgrades its Soviet-armed military equipment and meets NATO standards. He noted that the renewal of the air force, air defense, and the radar system are the top priorities (see also "End Note" below).




SFOR TAKES INDICTED WAR CRIMINAL TO HAGUE

British SAS troops with U.S. logistical support captured Milan Kovacevic, the former mayor of Prijedor and now hospital director, in that northwest Bosnian town on 10 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 1997). Former police chief Simo Drljaca, another indicted war criminal, died in a gunfight after he shot at a British soldier when the SAS troops tried to arrest him. SFOR took Kovacevic that evening to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. The well-planned action marks the first time that SFOR has hunted down indicted war criminals and reflects the new tough policy announced by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in May as well as the attitude of the new British Labor government. Neither Kovacevic nor Drljaca knew that they had been indicted, which complies with the court's new policy of not giving advance warning to those whom it intends to arrest.

WESTERN LEADERS BACK NEW POLICY IN BOSNIA

U.S President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair approved in advance what was code-named SFOR's Operation Tango, according to "The New York Times" on 11 July. Clinton had announced in Madrid on 9 July that "our mandate is to arrest people who have been accused of war crimes and turn them over for trial." After Operation Tango was completed, Albright said in Warsaw that it was a "positive development." In London, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and both sides of the parliament praised the courage of the British troops. Top U.S., British, and NATO officials suggested in their respective headquarters that further arrests of war criminals will follow. The spokesmen added that no indicted person can now feel safe.

PLAVSIC FEARS SFOR ACTION HAS HURT HER

Embattled Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 10 July that Drljaca's death was "murder" and called on NATO to release Kovacevic. She strongly protested SFOR's actions, which, she added, will only make a bad situation in the Republika Srpska worse. Plavsic told NATO she cannot be held responsible for Bosnian Serbs' reactions to the latest events. Opposition spokesmen echoed Plavsic and said that NATO's actions could serve to unite the population behind indicted war criminals such as Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic. Most Serbs regard the Hague-based court as a political tool used primarily against the Serbs. Momcilo Krajisnik, Plavsic's hard-line opponent, blasted Operation Tango and suggested in Pale that it was somehow linked to the internal political battles in the Republika Srpska. Krajisnik and Plavsic's other opponents have suggested that she is collaborating with the West against her own people.

MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT APPEALS FOR CALM AFTER RIOTS

Kiro Gligorov has urged calm after clashes between ethnic Albanians and police in Gostivar (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 1997). He said the riots were a blow to good inter-ethnic relations in the republic, where official figures say that the population is 22% Albanian. The clashes left two dead and at least 38 injured, including some seriously. Eight of the wounded are police. Police arrested Rufi Osmani, the ethnic Albanian mayor of Gostivar, and charged him with inciting the riots and promoting ethnic hatred. An additional 19 people were arrested and charged with disturbing the peace. In Skopje, the U.S. embassy expressed regret at the incident and reaffirmed Washington's support for Macedonia and its territorial integrity.

NEWS FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIA

In Podgorica, opposition legislators said on 10 July that they cannot accept President Momir Bulatovic's assertion that he knows nothing about reports that Gen. Mladic is vacationing on the Montenegrin coast, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital. In Pale, the Constitutional Court of the Republika Srpska called Plavsic's recent dissolution of the parliament illegal. In Pristina, the Kosovo Committee for the Defense of Rights and Freedoms said that Serbian police mistreated 146 ethnic Albanians in June. And in eastern Slavonia, the first group of Croatian refugees to return home arrived in Bilje on 9 July. The next day, the first group of Serbs left Klisa for their old homes elsewhere in Croatia, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Osijek.

OFFICIAL ALBANIAN ELECTION RESULTS

The Central Electoral Commission announced in Tirana on 10 July that the new Socialist-led, left-of-center coalition has a larger than two-thirds majority in the new 155-seat parliament. The official tally gives the Socialists 99 seats, the Social Democrats nine, and the rest of the coalition eight. The opposition right-of-center coalition has a total of 37 seats, of which 27 belong to the Democrats, two to the Monarchists, and the rest to smaller groupings. Some 115 seats were elected directly, while the remaining 40 were assigned on the basis of proportional representation. Voters in two constituencies will go to the polls again on 13 July because irregularities in the first two rounds there rendered the vote invalid.

ITALY ANNOUNCES INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ALBANIA

Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini said in Rome on 10 July that representatives of countries and international organizations dealing with Albania will meet in the Italian capital before the end of the month. Participants will include Franz Vranitzky, the OSCE's chief envoy to Albania, as well as officials from Albania's new Socialist-led government. The delegates will assess the post-election situation in Albania and lay the groundwork for higher-level conferences slated for September and October. Meanwhile in Igoumenitsa, Greece, customs officials on 11 July stopped nine armed Albanians who had hijacked the ferry from Vlora. The Greeks forced the Albanians to return to that city on the same ship.

ALBANIANS EAGER FOR REPAYMENT OF LOST INVESTMENTS

Popular pressure is building for the new government to reimburse people for their losses in collapsed pyramid schemes, "Koha Jone" reported from Vlora on 10 July. During the election campaign, Socialist leaders suggested they might reimburse investors for their losses but would not commit themselves unambiguously to do so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 1997). Prime Minister-designate Fatos Nano said in June that he would at least try to track down the money and give it back if he could find it. The Democrats have already indicated that they will try to score political points if the Socialists do not implement what many Albanians feel was a clear campaign promise to repay losses. Outrage over the collapsed pyramid schemes at the end of 1996 and the beginning of 1997 led to anarchy and, subsequently, the recent elections.

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION LEADER AGAINST GRANTING CLINTON "HONORARY ROWDY" TITLE

Former President Ion Iliescu says it would be "insulting" to grant Bill Clinton the title of "honorary rowdy" during the U.S. president's visit to Bucharest on 11 July. The authorities' intention to do so was announced by several newspapers but has not been confirmed by the government, the independent AR-Press agency reported. Clinton is to address Romanians in Bucharest's University Square, where in 1990 Iliescu--who had just been elected president--called demonstrators opposed to his election "rowdies." That comment inspired a popular song among demonstrators "better a rowdy than a communist." Meanwhile, the Bucharest mayoralty announced on 10 July that Presidents Clinton and Jacques Chirac of France will be made honorary citizens of the city, the latter in sign of praise for his support of Romania's integration in NATO.

HUNGARIAN CONSULATE IN CLUJ TO OPEN SOON

The Hungarian consulate in Cluj will be officially inaugurated on 23 July by the Romanian and Hungarian foreign ministers, Radio Bucharest announced on 10 July. The consulate was closed in the 1980s by Nicolae Ceausescu's regime; its re-inauguration was agreed to in the basic treaty signed by the two countries last year. Meanwhile, the extreme nationalist mayor of the city, Gheorghe Funar, has announced he will not implement a government decision on bilingual street signs and the employment of translators by local authorities in settlements with large minority populations. Funar claims that some 400 translators would have to be employed for this purpose, while the local prefect, Alexandru Farcas, says one translator would suffice, Romanian Television reported. Farcas said he might start procedures to dismiss Funar.

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT AT SALZBURG FORUM

Addressing the economic summit of CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPEan States in Salzburg on 10 July, President Petru Lucinschi said the EU should not be a "closed fortress" for countries that are not members of the union. Lucinschi also met with Austrian President Thomas Klestil and informed him about the progress of economic reform in Moldova, Infotag reported. In other news, Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc on 10 July visited the areas affected by recent torrential rains and floods. Damage is estimated at some 22 million lei ($4 million). Two persons died in the Cantemir and Orhei districts, and some 360 dwellings were damaged, BASA-press and Infotag reported.

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT REPLACES STATE RADIO, TV CHIEFS

The parliament on 10 July replaced the chiefs of state radio and television who had been appointed by the previous Socialist government. Vyacheslav Tunev takes over from Liljana Popovna, who was fired from the radio by the previous management. Since then, she has worked as a journalist for "Demokratsiya," which supported the reformist United Democratic Forces (ODS). Stefan Dimitrov, a composer who wrote music for the ODS's election campaign, replaces Ivan Tokadzhiev as television director. The Socialist Party and the Business Bloc boycotted the vote, saying it violated the provisions of the Law on State Media passed by the Socialist-dominated parliament. The ODS said most of the law's articles had been invalidated by the High Court of Justice and were therefore no longer applicable, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported.

BULGARIA'S POPULATION DROPS SHARPLY

The population of Bulgaria is expected to fall by 1 million by year 2020 owing to a low birth rate and widespread emigration, both of which are consequences of the country's economic crisis. Kiril Gatev, deputy director of the National Statistics Institute, told a press conference in Sofia that the trend "is exceeding even the most pessimistic forecasts," Reuters reported on 10 July. Gatev said Bulgaria's 8.3 million population is expected to fall to some 8.1 million by the year 2000 and to between 6.9 and 7.4 million in 2020. He said the death rate far outstripped the birth rate and that every fourth Bulgarian would be a pensioner by 2020. According to Gatev, some 650,000 mostly young people left Bulgaria between 1989 and 1996.




How Much Will NATO Enlargement Cost?


by Michael Mihalka

A number of reports have appeared recently in the Western media asserting that the cost of NATO enlargement could exceed $100 billion. Such assertions are based on several fallacies.

First, it is frequently claimed that new members must replace their Soviet-era equipment with modern Western weaponry. In fact, new members need only make their current forces interoperable with NATO, meaning providing English-language courses, changing air defense and command-and-control procedures, and perhaps purchasing communication equipment. German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe has called claims that new members must buy Western equipment "pure drivel." He noted that "it is perverse to say that modern tanks and aircraft are necessary in the new member states. We are not talking about EU agriculture. The purchase of tanks can wait."

Second, it is often maintained that requirements drive defense budgets. In fact, politics drive those budgets. Many studies of the costs of NATO enlargement specify tasks that would need to be performed by new members. Costs are then associated with those tasks. The higher estimates are based on a scenario of hedging against a large-scale short-warning attack such as NATO was prepared for during the Cold War. According to that scenario, NATO would deploy forward, large air and ground combat forces in the new member states. NATO has already decided that it does not need to pursue that option.

A third fallacy is that NATO dictates the terms of membership. In fact, while the alliance says what it expects membership candidates to do, those countries can they can do as they please once they become members. Some NATO countries, such as Iceland and Luxembourg, have no or only notional armed forces. Others, such as Norway, refuse to have foreign troops or nuclear weapons stationed on their territories. Still others, such as Spain, Greece, and France, have sometimes refused to participate in the integrated military structure.

Finally, it is frequently claimed that joining an alliance increases military expenditures. But, in fact, countries are more likely to spend less on defense in the long run if they belong to an alliance rather than having to deal with security concerns on their own.

Most policy-makers in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE believe that the costs associated with NATO enlargement would be small and manageable. They also realize that they needed to modernize their forces regardless of whether they join. Cost assessments by the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland fall far short of those carried out in the West.

Peter Necas, the former Czech deputy defense minister, said in an April 1997 interview (when he was chairman of the parliamentary Defense and Security Committee) that modernizing the army was essential unless troops were simply to be used as a castle guard in handsome uniforms for parades. He also pointed out the direct costs to ensure interoperability with NATO were already being paid so that Czech units could participate in exercises with NATO members and in the Stabilization Force (SFOR) in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He estimated that another part of the direct costs--the contribution to NATO's budget--would total 300-400 million crowns annually (about $10-12 million).

A Polish study group that included officials from the Defense and Foreign Affairs Ministries estimated that the essential costs of joining NATO--integrating the command system with NATO, ensuring the compatibility of the telecommunications and air defense systems, and modernizing airfields--would total some $1.5 billion. The group assumed that Poland would need to contribute $35-40 million annually to the alliance's joint budget. According to those estimates, the Polish defense budget would increase by no more than 4 percent. Janusz Onyskiewicz, former defense minister and currently chairman of the parliamentary Defense Committee, noted that the cost of NATO enlargement presents no major difficulty to either new or current members.

Imre Mecs, the chairman of the Hungarian parliament's Defense Committee, said in March 1997 that defense expenditures might increase by 15-20 percent but that most of the increase would be needed to modernize a military that had not been upgraded in 15 years. Joining NATO would not pose an economic burden for the Hungarian people, he argued.

The May 1996 Congressional Budget Office study, which contains the highest estimates of the costs of NATO enlargement, defined the worst-case scenario so that U.S. legislators would know the highest amount the U.S. might have to contribute. Even that study concluded it would cost only $21.2 billion for training and exercises and for upgrading air defense and command as well as control and communications equipment in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. Of that amount, those four countries would have paid 70 percent, while the U.S. would have needed to contribute $1.9 billion and its European allies $3.7 billion over several years. That amount does not differ significantly from the one given in the February 1997 State Department study of the costs of NATO enlargement. According to that study, the U.S. would need to pay about $150-200 million a year--or less than 0.1 percent of the annual U.S. defense budget.

The author teaches at the George C. Marshall Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.


XS
SM
MD
LG