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Sofianski Gifted a Laser. Full recovery of hearing without operation will be made in the First City Hospital in Sofia. The laser appliances help healing 100% of the diseases of the ear after infections and flue. Mayor Stephan Sofianski granted 120,000 levs. A laser center for treatment in a hospital will be established with the new appliances. Foto Mariana Angelova (PY)
Drugs-incineration. Photo of the day: BTA
On the Front Lines in Tetovo.
by Christopher Deliso
January 25, 2002
Skopje, Macedonia For the past year, the Albanians in Macedonia have claimed that repression, economic inequality, and a general lack of rights have justified starting a war. Tetovo, a town in the sparsely-populated west of Macedonia, where more than 60% of the population is Albanian, would seem an ideal place to test this assumption. Visiting Tetovo, however, one discovers a completely different reality. The rapidly increasing prosperity of the Albanians there is witnessed by the large car dealerships, hotels, bars, and retail stores lining the downtown and the entrance road from Skopje. Many of these are still under construction, grand skeletons of what will become essentially a reborn city. All throughout Tetovo, new houses and newly-laid foundations dominate. They are almost entirely Albanian.
In marked contrast to the Albanians, the Macedonian minority in Tetovo lives in either drab, Yugoslav-era high-rise apartments, or else in dilapidated old houses in Tetovo's "old town." This section of town is located on the base and side of the Sar Planina mountain. Tetovo was effectively cleared of some 20,000 Macedonians at the height of the fighting. Of the 6,000 people who have not yet returned, most lived here. The Macedonian houses once spread up the mountainside, but are now pillaged and destroyed. The NLA hid inside them when firing down on the Macedonian army, thus ensuring that the latter would have to shoot at their own property.
Funding the trend.
The wave of Albanian building projects in Tetovo and environs boils down to one factor: money. Lavish new houses are being built in record numbers by wealthy expatriate Albanians from Switzerland, Germany, the US and other countries. These activities are mirrored by a quite visible growth of businesses such as hotels, bars, and car dealerships some of which are no doubt funded by Albanian mafia bosses from Kosovo and Macedonia.
All throughout the west of Macedonia, and especially in Tetovo, the increased construction of luxurious homes and businesses by Albanians has gone on simultaneously with the forced expulsion of Macedonians from the region. Several villages in the desolate stretches of Sar Planina, that were part or all Macedonian a year ago, are now entirely Albanian. Strongholds like Sipkovica, for example, feature almost palatial Albanian mansions. Consequently, one should be skeptical of those who insist that this war was not fought for the consolidation of territory.
The relatively recent phenomenon of very wealthy Albanians (owing not a little to the rise of an all-powerful Albanian Mafia), coupled with the economic hardship of the past ten years in Macedonia, made the current situation almost inevitable. For poor Macedonians who are used to surviving on a typical salary of $150 a month, it is impossible to say no when offered up to $500,000 for their property. Faced with such an "offer they can't refuse," many Macedonians have already pocketed the money and moved out. One might argue that those Macedonians who claim to be so patriotic should do what it takes to remain in their ancestral lands. Money talks, however, and few are so patriotic as to turn down the chance to renew their own lives, either in Skopje or out of the country entirely. Surviving on the wages that the state and state-owned industry pays requires frugality at best. Yet for many Macedonians, this is the extent of their opportunities at present.
The supreme irony of all this is that the Albanians have been complaining that they can't get state jobs. As a factory supervisor explained, "these jobs aren't good enough for them. Why would they work for so little when they could have so much more money (smuggling drugs or weapons)?"
The word on the street.
The other day, I spoke with an important former NLA man in a caf in Tetovo. We met in a neighborhood where the Macedonian police are not allowed to go making the area a safe-haven for Albanian irregulars. Known as the VIP Caf, the establishment is currently owned by Menduh Thaci, the VP of the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA). The front room is slickly painted in the NLA colors (red and black); the decor includes green neon track lighting and a large potted plant in the corner. Soft-core hip-hop plays, and the bartender comes to your table to offer complementary cigarettes from a gold case. According to my source, Thaci acquired the caf for $500,000 much more than its previous owner paid.
This pattern of property sales in Tetovo has been especially strong for the past three years. One of the best examples, according to my source, is the "Green Market" shopping center. When it opened three years ago, Albanians were allegedly prohibited by the state to purchase any of the stores. Yet they would not have to wait long before they acquired all of the shops in the mall. As my source explained, "the Macedonians bought them at a low price, so they could resell them at a higher price to Albanians."
The site of a battle.
In the old town of Tetovo, the bullet-holed church of St. Nicholas attests to last year's battles. Next to it is a small church under construction, which was being built under the direction of a reserve policeman named Terpe. When the war started last March, he was called up and construction halted. Near the buildings, a sandbagged enclosure with gunholes a former army checkpoint remains. Terpe points in the direction of the mountain, and explains how the Albanians were bombarding the checkpoint from the houses above. At the same time, they were also firing from the city center below. The fact that this battle took place on the 16th of March, very early in the conflict, shows the great degree of support the NLA had among Albanians in Tetovo. Although the NLA was at that time being marginalized politically, they could not have taken up offensive positions in the city itself unless they had strong support from the local community.
Manning the checkpoints.
Further down the mountain to the northeast, the army currently keeps an eye on Sar Planina and anyone who might try to attack from the hills. They are also protecting the only Macedonian-language TV station in Tetovo, KISS, which was bombarded with gunfire and rockets during the war. The station's director was also temporarily abducted by the NLA, but was later released due to NATO intercession.
We were lucky enough to be allowed inside the army post to speak directly with the soldiers. Though they have been there for months, they are housed in only a tiny shelter with four bunkbeds. One might think it was something more out of summer camp than the army, but for the heavy weaponry and tanks outside.
Here, an uneasy truce is sticking. The soldiers confirmed that the Albanians were mostly firing in the air to assert their continued presence. When asked about their own preparedness, the Macedonian soldiers stated that they had made great improvements since last Spring. In fact, said one soldier, "if we were given the chance, the rebels would be defeated in 24 hours."
While such confident statements may or may not be true, the general feeling is that restriction from the international community will prevent them from fighting the NLA. There are still deep suspicions a soldier reminded me of last summer in Sipkovice, where a NATO helicopter was filmed dropping a mysterious package into NLA territory. The soldiers were frustrated at their negative portrayal by the western media, and could not understand the lack of western sympathy for their cause. In any case, the Macedonian soldiers could not get away with anything if they tried in the fifteen minutes we were there, two OSCE vehicles passed down the road. They were heading into the Albanian-controlled territories, as were a stream of Albanian cars. None of them were harassed or stopped.
This is interesting, when we consider the stated reason for the Albanians' demand that the checkpoints be dismantled: they claim that they are intimidated by the Macedonian security forces. This claim seems hard to believe, for the simple reason that the eyes and ears of NATO and the OSCE are everywhere. In a country the size of Macedonia, there would be no hiding any alleged army brutality.
Other checkpoints, other realities.
On the other hand, the situation of the Macedonians in and around Tetovo is different. The head of one organization for Macedonians displaced in the conflict, Goce Trpevski, maintains that the villages above Tetovo have been practically ethnically cleansed of Macedonians. In villages like Tearce, Leshok, Neprosteno and Slatina, which were all mixed or majority Macedonian, the NLA has driven almost all non-Albanians from their homes. The situation now, according to Trpevski, is one of "constant bullying from the Albanians to the few remaining elderly Macedonians."
A forestry ranger who served in the reserves in 2001, and was wounded in a battle with the NLA, recounted how he has been unable to see his ill father for eight months. His father lives in one of the mountain villages controlled by the NLA, and the ranger is certain that the Albanians would kill him if he returned. So he remains in Tetovo, where his government uniform and vehicle make him the object of hostile stares and gestures from the Albanians. I had hoped to visit Leshok, site of the destroyed 14th century monastery, but that particular day was too dangerous, according to the ranger. In the lawless villages above Tetovo, cars are liable to be stopped by hostile former members of the NLA. A Macedonian journalist who had visited Sipkovice told me that this trip had only been possible when accompanied by NATO soldiers. The same body, according to this journalist, is already secretly aware that "there are some villages where the Macedonians will never be allowed to return."
EU Urges Macedonia to Keep Up Pace of Peace.
By Kole Casule
SKOPJE (Reuters) - European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana praised Macedonia's leaders on Friday for progress made toward cementing ethnic peace and urged them not to slacken their pace.
``The process in the country is going in the right direction, but still we have to go all the way to the end the process,'' Solana told reporters in the capital, Skopje.
Macedonia's parliament approved a bill on local self-government late on Thursday, taking another a crucial step forward in Western-backed efforts to eliminate ethnic tensions that led to last year's Albanian guerrilla insurgency.
Adoption of the law devolving powers to municipalities was seen as a precondition for a European Union-sponsored donors' conference to help rebuild the impoverished and landlocked Balkan country after the seven-month conflict.
``We have taken a decision yesterday night to begin the preparatory work for the donors' conference. That is done on the understanding that the behavior of the government is going to be compatible with it,'' Solana said.
Macedonia, one of Europe's poorest countries, badly needs foreign aid to rebuild its devastated economy. The government estimates the fighting cost the country $700 million, and officials say they initially expect $90 million from donors.
DIPLOMATIC WHIRLWIND LOCKED IN FOG
Solana arrived in Skopje on Thursday evening after being delayed due to heavy fog, forcing his plane to put down at Thessaloniki, Greece, a four hour drive away.
He moved north later on Friday to speak to ethnic Albanian leaders in Kosovo, who are trying to reach a power-sharing agreement, and was due later in Belgrade for talks on the future relationship between Yugoslavia's two remaining constituent republics, Serbia and independence-minded Montenegro.
Macedonia's new local-self government law gives municipalities greater say in several areas, including budgets, public services, culture, education and health.
Arguments over the proposal had delayed implementation of the Western-mediated peace agreement signed in August last year and were seen as the main reason for the postponement of police re-entry into former rebel areas.
``I said very clearly that we have to avoid any kind of provocations so that the (re-entry) process can go smoothly,'' Solana said.
Police begun establishing control over former rebel villages last year, but the process has been lethargic due to mistrust from the local ethnic Albanian population afraid of retaliation for helping the rebels.
Solana said Macedonian leaders had committed themselves to adopting an amnesty law, another step considered vital to reducing tensions and ethnic mistrust.
Under heavy international pressure, Macedonian authorities issued an amnesty statement in November covering all former guerrillas, but refused to adopt a law legalizing the process.
After The Rain and Dust... MUD.
INTERVIEW Reality Macedonia: Milcho Manchevski
Exclusive interview with Milcho Manchevski,
conducted by Dragan Antonovski.
DA: What is the image of your country that reaches you through the questions addressed to you, through journalistic reports that are getting scarcer than ever, from people who learned about Macedonia from your movies?
MM: It isn’t pretty. To tell you the truth, reality isn't pretty either, but the image is quite skewed. Look, the nature of the news in general, and of stations like CNN in particular, is to present political content in sensationalist manner. Thus, when reporting from Macedonia, they report about only one problem, seen from a designated angle, because the people that do the reporting are not especially knowledgeable about the situation, and on top of that they are briefed to look at it in a certain, predetermined, way. Before that they were in Bosnia, now they are in Afghanistan… How much time did they have to acknowledge the complex truth in Macedonia?
DA: How does Macedonia look like in the eye of the American, or more general, foreign public?
MM: It is presented as a country totally thorn apart by ethnic warfare.
DA: Such picture of Macedonia was nevertheless created by the Albanians. Before and after the rain! It turns out that it is really easy to invent a story as if for a movie, to assemble a scenario and then sell as the truth. The Macedonian crisis is definitely a scenario. In such a way, they persuade the international public that a terrorist is a human rights fighter. What is the mental framework of the foreigners who buy this story? How can they be so comfortable about it? Does that mean that the “person from the West” does not know how to think for him[/her]self, that all s/he wants is to be a listening machine: to parrot the stance of the presenter from the TV screen, or some “important” columnist? Do such people lack the time, or the ability to think?
MM: Well, in comparison, let’s ask ourselves how much do we know about East Timor or Kashmir? People do not know much about things that do not concern them. They also lack the time, the energy and the patience to study about it. People in the West, especially in U.S.A., are no exception. In their opinion, the complexity of whatever is going on in Macedonia is not something to be concerned about. We bear the greatest blame: the world does not hear our truth primarily because of our laziness and incompetence.
DA: Does it turn out that the person “from the East” has too much faith in the strength of [unaided] justice?
MM: I think that we in Macedonia spend too much time on complaining and wailing, and too little time on actual work. As little children, we expect someone else to solve our problem. Or we look for someone else to blame. It is very unhealthy, endemic behavior: it seems easier to find an excuse, than to get the job done. And sometimes we waste a hundred times more energy on finding excuses, than on getting the job done.
DA: How neutral is the International Community? To what degree it bases its behavior on balancing its momentary needs and perceived interests? It seems that much of it can be reduced to a level of a game, played by the censored international media, such as CNN, or the powerful lobby groups hostile to Macedonia. Did the questions from cheap diminutive journalists about your movie, such as whether it’s a protest message against NATO or stupidities that its purpose is blocking Turkey’s entry to EU, had something to do with this background?
MM: Neutrality does not exist. But those who play this game make a show of neutrality. Unfortunately, majority of critics did not make an expert review of the movie. Instead, they analyzed my comment published by Sueddeutsche Zeitung and The Guardian, in which I called upon NATO to accept its part of responsibility for the creation of Macedonian war. We must not blame it all on NATO, but it carries a partial responsibility.
The critics did not even discuss the movie; they only used it as an excuse for political confrontation. They need the political controversy, because for European critics, the politics takes the place of gossip—who sleeps with whom—used by the American reviewers. So, they posed too many political questions about “Dust.” Westerners rarely addressed the aesthetic aspects of the movie, although the Japanese evaluated it as highly aesthetical. Critics from the West did not want to see how we perceive our history (or the present we live in). They concentrated on seeking a proof of their viewpoints and theses in our movie. I must admit that I was quite surprised by the lack of aesthetic discourse, but then I came to a conclusion that many people attacked the movie because they equated it with political defense of Macedonia. And we were branded as "bad guys."
So, the critics asked questions such as the one by Walker from the Evening Standard: “I wander what you think the effect will be upon contemporary Turkey which is at the present moment trying to enter the European Union. Do you have a political agenda by this film?” This presented an attack toward a work of art that did not confirm to their expectations about how it should speak on its chosen topic. They wanted a na´ve, small movie which would present a story about our hardships from an inferior position, with beautiful sunsets and an exotic lifestyle. They did not want a movie which tackles the complex question of retelling history, and how the facts change while the story is told.
DA: There are some people who try to do something about presenting Macedonia, to contribute to our continuing survival. You write your scripts, then put the pictures together, we make our Reality Macedonia… Vlatko regularly plays his New Year’s concert in London, people of Synthesis sing for the immigrants in Australia… What of it? Does the lack of Macedonia’s positive reputation abroad ever discourage you?
MM: Sometimes I think that I am tired, not because of the lack of objectivity abroad, but because of our own malice.
DA: Which would be the next title of your [moving] picture?
MM: Well, the only thing you can get from rain and dust is mud.
Boyko Borissov - the Sheriff of the State.
Nobody knows where and when the Chief Secretary of the IM will start for.
Leonard Cohen's songs sound in the corridors of the IM headquarters. The music comes from the office of General Borissov. It makes me feel easy, says he and politely invites his guests. He doesn't refuse to meet anybody, as a rule. Sometimes he may be late but he always comes. Early in the morning he has already read the papers and taken a look at information agencies' bulletins. He has made his obligatory one hour drill. And while the other employees of the Interior Ministry haven't come to work yet, he gets in his 'Mercedes' and starts for somewhere. In some unknown direction, his guards, who usually play the role of mere passengers, say. There isn't any program. 'Every minute is important. I want to use the time that remains to make something good for the people', chief secretary likes to say. It often happens that at midnight he goes around and arrests criminals. 'It's not the words that are important, but the actions', says he to his subordinates. He likes to be negligee and puts ties on vary rare occasions. But the smell of his favourite 'Davidoff' perfume is always around him. At first sight nothing could throw him off balance. He already has an instinct to put the chaos in order. Even at the time of the tragedy in the 'Indigo' discotheque. Then he didn't hesitate to command even the doctors and the chief of the 'Pirogov' clinic. The chaos disappeared in minutes. He's kidding that he's equally afraid of both politicians and criminals. Before engaging himself in guarding the state, Boyko Borissov was taking care about Simeon-Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. In 1991 he established his company 'Ipon'. Todor Zhivkov, Juan Antonio Samaranch, Queen Nur, Russian PM Nikolay Rizhkov and other celebrities used his services. He has fifth dan in karate. Former world champion is the first representative of Europe who won against a Japanese in the final. He is an engineer and a Doctor of Pedagogical sciences. Since he took the post of chief secretary of the IM he's feeling sorry that he hasn't enough time for his favourite dogs. Whenever he comes home, sometimes even at night, he finds time to take them for a walk. For years he breeds the Bulgarian shepherd's dog. His dream is this breed to be registered and to get recognition abroad. 'They are faithful, but don't forgive the enemies', Borissov says. They don't jump in vain and once they clench something in their jaws, it remains there. They are the same as their master, friends of Borisov are kidding.
President Held 3-hour Talks with Ambassadors of NATO States.
Parvanov criticized the Cabinet for NPP. The government to pay attention to the experts, the Head of state advises.
I'm embarrassed of the discrepancies in the government on the shut down issue of the 3rd and 4th reactors of NPP, said President Georgi Parvanov, after his yesterday's lunch with the ambassadors of the NATO countries to Bulgaria. To him, the political statements on the point, were not supposed to precede the state's new energy strategy adoption. 'I'm embarrassed by the fact, that they say 'Up!' before being ready to jump,' the President commented figuratively To him, Bulgaria must lean on the firm reports of Bulgarian and European experts during the negotiations with the European Commission. The specialists provide serious life span of the 3rd and 4th units, Parvanov stressed. In his view, the economic and social consequences of the 3 and 4 reactors' decommissioning should also be taken in consideration, moreover without hampering Bulgaria's negotiations on EU accession. Yesterday Parvanov discussed with the ambassadors of the 15 NATO-member states the modernization of the Bulgarian army and his forthcoming visit in Brussels on February 5 to 7. The meeting was held in the Greek embassy and lasted 3 hours.
Bulgarian Visas Proposed For Model to EC.
The new Bulgarian visas "Visa 2001" were proposed to the European Commission as the best possible model for EU visas, said Foreign Minister Solomon Passy in Sofia yesterday. The EC could introduce "Visa 2001" during the period 2003-2007, for the latter is the only one of the Schengen type with a coloured photograph, and has 28 degrees of protection. Even the American visas are still with black-and-white photos, Passy reminded. He personally approved the first Bulgarian visa of a new type. "We receive daily ten hundreds of applications from all over the world for the new Bulgarian visas that started to be issued yesterday," sourced from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
Russian Ambassador Visits N 2 'Dondoukov'
Russian ambassador Vladimir Titov visited the presidency at around 10.00 a.m. in the morning yesterday. However, the new head of state Georgi Parvanov arrived at N 2 'Dondoukov' 15 minutes after Titov had left. Sources from the presidency denied any agreed appointment between the two. Yesterday Parvanov met with the ambassadors of the NATO member countries to Bulgaria. Earlier in the day he signed his first three edicts. By the first one he assigned vice president Anguel Marin powers to pardon, grant Bulgarian citizenship and asylum. The president also signed the structural edict on the services with his administration. The third edict was on the appointment of Krassimir Stoyanov to the post of chief presidential secretary.
Sofiyanski's Bail Reduced to 1,000 Levs.
Sofia Regional Prosecutor's Office downsized the bail of Stephan Sofiyansky from BGN 10,000 to 1,000, magistrates said. Sofia mayor is accused in commitment of crime in office in connection with the Eurobonds. 'The trial against me won't prevent me from signing $104 million loan on February 6 with the Japanese bank to complete the underground,' he said The municipal budget is short of 80 million levs, Sofiyanski added. The money is needed to keep up a rate of relatively low unemployment, he elaborated.
Bulgaria and Greece Resolved To Curb Trafficking in People.
In Salonika yesterday senior Bulgarian and Greek policemen discussed joint measures against trafficking in people and drugs. IM chief secretary General Boiko Borissov headed the Bulgarian delegation which also included the chief of the National Police General Vassil Vassilev and the Director of RDIM-Blagoevgrad, colonel Nikola Yanev. At the meeting the sides agreed on the exchange of special information between the two countries. The Chief Police Director of North Greece, General Nikiforos Dzandzakis extended an invitation to his Bulgarian colleagues to participate in the meeting of the police of Athens neighboring countries. The meeting will be held at the beginning of February.
19,000 Armed to the Teeth in Plovdiv.
Change-bureau owner has a licence for machine-gun, ex-policeman - for grenade discharger.
The number of illegally possessed weapons in Plovdiv boosted 2-fold for a year only, showed the data from the RDI's analysis for 2001. Some 19,000 Plovdiv citizens are licensed to carry guns, or rifles. 24,000 barrels are registered in the KOS (Control Over Weapons) service, including army rifles, pistols and carbines. To well-informed, Zdravko Zaphirov - former deputy-minister of Interior, holds legally at home the largest number of weapon. His collection totals some 200 firearms. Former policeman from Plovdiv was issued a licence to hold grenade discharger, while owner of change bureau was entitled to use machine-gun in case of self-defence.
Bulgaria to Reserve Gold Share in BTC.
The state interests will be thus guaranteed.
The state will retain a minority share of the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC) at the privatization of the telecom, sources from the cabinet said. An option to guarantee the state interest by a gold share, or minimum percent of the shares is under consideration. Thus the state will reserve minority rights of protection in the telecommunications company and will decide how long to retain them. Certain details on the telecom sale's strategy are being specified so far. Consultant Deutsche Bank presented last week its concept, which ran that within 34 to 65 percent of the company were to be sold. Telecom's shares will be put on the local stock exchange as well. BTC will be sold through two-stage tender, with no minimum price specified. The sale's deadline expires in mid-2002.
The Myth of Kostov's Honest Team Collapsed.
The aphorism that Bulgaria is ruled by former and future prisoners belongs to prominent Bulgarian banker and politician Atanas Bourov. Regrettably, nothing has changed since the times of the first government of Radoslavov, that is, the 'Charles and Jean' affair of 1904. At present Attorney General Nikola Filchev is filling in a list of names of former celebrities for reasons of malfeasance. And he doesn't differentiate between them for party colors and periods of rule. Attacks against former boxer Filchev seem to be a dope to him. The more he is attacked, the more the files he brings to the fore. Naturally, the list is by far a complete one. However, what impresses is that prevalent in it are names of people from the UDF rule. Not only in terms of numbers - 20 out of a total of 47, but in terms of rank as well. The myth of the honest team of 'Kostov' collapsed. Today too, UDF shamans and the official spokesmen at N 134 'Rakovski' St., keep stressing that the beginning of corruption in Bulgaria was laid down by Lyuben Berov's cabinet. Well, but Neicho Neev and Georgi Tanev are also on Filchev's list. However, the list is topped by people from Ivan Kostov's government. So what that for 4 years, the Commander turned his back even on conspicuous facts about corruption among his elite by means of the classical formula 'There doesn't exist such a phenomenon'. Like a communist at interrogation he denied the disclosures of the media on the documents-supported shady affairs of Ventsislav Varbanov, Hristo Mihailovski, Marin Marinov, Edit Getova. Not to mention the unpaid taxes of Julia Berberyan. Now the former UDF celebrities keep claiming they are innocent. However, in their capacity of defendants this time.
Coin to Replace 1-Lev Banknote.
New notes with denomination 2, 5 and 10 lev are minted.
One-lev coin will replace the paper notes by mid-year, said yesterday Governor of the Bulgarian National Bank, Svetoslav Gavriiski. The portrait of Paisius of Hilendar will decorate the reverse of the new coin. It will look like a Euro, Gavriiski said proudly. One- lev banknotes will be gradually put out of circulation. European experience shows that half a year is needed for the replacement. The notes with the denomination of 2, 5 and ten levs will remain the same, but fresh ones will be minted, because too many worn out notes are in circulation, the Governor explained. According to him, a 100-lev note will not be issued this year, because the market doesn't need it. However, already now it is known that the portrait of Aleko Konstantinov will be on its front side.
Bulgaria Will Collapse without Small Reactors.
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Kiril Ermenkov
For the decommission of four NPP units we must receive $ 1 billion, not just 200 million euro, says Kiril ermenkov, chairman of the Energy Commission to the 38th National Assembly.
- Mr. Ermenkov, how would you comment on the Premier's statement about the decommission of Units 3 and 4 of the Nuclear Power Plant in Kozloduy before 2006?
- As a whole it was diplomatic and carefully weighed. However, I think it was hasty. The Premier shouldn't have made it before his colleague Costas Simitis. I hope the Premier won't take offence, but it seems to me that he is not well acquainted with the national energy strategy to be applied till 2003. First, he had to visit the NPP in Kozloduy and get acquainted with the opinions of experts, including that of the Energy Minister, Milko Kovatchev. The PM's stand runs contrary to the national interests of Bulgaria. It clashes with the stand of the Energy Minister and the national strategy. There are certain agreements that the European Commission has not carried out. Among them modernization of Units 3 and 4, construction of new nuclear capacities, liabilities to central heating agencies in Sofia and Pernik. EC does not carry out their part of the agreement, but insists that we should fulfill our obligations.
- Can the EC resort to arm-twisting to make Bulgaria obey?
- We have more trumps up a sleeve, but we have to use them cleverly. The major obligation of Bulgaria written down in the Memorandum of 1997 is to run the NPP safely. The first four units for 30 years have been working without a single emergency or failure. Their performance term expires in 2006. The experts of International Atomic Energy Agency took sides with us. We have also put to use the argument that Bulgaria will not be among the countries that will join the EU first. This gives us the right to seek protection for our energy sector as well as financial support to meet the European norms and standards. After all, in the Memorandum of November 29, 1999 it is envisaged to decommission Units 1, 2 before 2003 and start negotiations on Units 3, 4 in 2002. However no deadline is set for their closure. The analysis of the international legal acts that have bearing on the ahead of schedule decommission of the four reactors is also to our advantage. There are a lot of vulnerable points in these documents that we can use as arguments holding the stand that Units 3 and 4 should be closed in 2008 and 2010.
- Can it happen that Units 1 and 2 will be closed by end-2002? What is the total amount of compensatory payments?
- Bulgaria doesn't have funds for the decommission of the first two units. We can only afford preparations for it. Facing the ultimatum - decommission if Units 1 and 2 in 2002 and Units 3 and 4 before 2006 - Bulgaria needs about $ 1 billion, not 200 million euro. Besides, we haven't started yet negotiating the second tranche of 100 million euro. The EC declared that if we agree to stop the reactors before 2006 we can get the second tranche. To us this is absolutely out of the question. Neither can we agree with the framework agreement about partial compensations for the decommission of Units 1 and 2 signed by Ivan Shiliashki two days before the general election in 2001. This was a political blunder, that the present parliament got as legacy. The parliament has to ratify this document if he wants to get money from the international fund for Kozloduy. The document, however, contains a number of misconceptions. It is pointed out that Bulgaria makes a firm commitment to close and put out of operation the small reactors, which has not been mentioned in the previous agreements. Thus, instead of frowning on the deadlines, Nadezhda Mihailova has to read through this document. It says that Bulgaria agrees to get 100 million euro for the decommission of the first four units.
- How will the stoppage of small reactors affect the energy sector?
- The country will suffer huge losses for a long time. In the meanwhile substituting capacities in Maritsa 1 Thermal Power Station will be built and Units 5 and 6 of the NPP will be modernized. It will so happen that exactly during the winter of 2002-2003 our energy system will be on the brink of failure. And in 2004-2006 the entire energy sector may collapse. This will make it impossible to carry out our agreement with Turkey about the supply of 4 billion kW/h. And then Bulgaria will have to pay heavy penalties. This will be a fatal blow for the only marketable commodity our country has - electric power.
Albania: Officials Crack Down On Terror Suspects.
RFE - RL
By Alban Bala
Albanian authorities have seized control of a twin-tower construction project in central Tirana after the government confirmed the project was being used to launder financial activities for the Al-Qaeda terrorist network. Alban Bala reports from Tirana on the government investigation.
Tirana, 25 January 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Since the collapse of communist rule in Albania a decade ago, numerous businesses, charities, and religious groups from the Muslim world have set up operations in Albania, where some 70 to 80 percent of the population is of Islamic heritage.
As the international war on terrorism unfolds, a recent government crackdown in Albania indicates that some of those businesses may have links to the Al-Qaeda terror network. A project to construct 15-story twin towers in central Tirana recently came under suspicion when one of the project's owners was found to have links to Al-Qaeda.
Ardian Visha, a spokesman for the Albanian Prosecutor-General's Office, says a central figure in the case is Yassin Kadi, a Saudi construction mogul who is the co-owner of the "twin towers" project. The spokesman says Kadi is suspected of laundering some $10 million in Albania for the Al-Qaeda network. The government recently seized control of the site.
"In both buildings, a Saudi Arabian citizen named Yassin Kadi turned out to be the co-owner, contractor and customer [the one who ordered the buildings]. The Finance Ministry has charged him with money laundering, and he is suspected of having financed terrorist members of the Al-Qaeda organization," Visha says. "We have filed a request with the Tirana courts to temporarily confiscate this property and freeze any bank accounts this individual has in Albania."
The Albanian government has long pledged to clamp down on undesirable foreigners and their financial dealings. But until now the authorities have strongly denied that terrorist networks were present in Albania. The twin towers case is the first such admission by government officials that Al-Qaeda has penetrated Albania.
But despite having a suspect, prosecutors do not have their man -- Kadi's whereabouts are unknown, and Albanian officials concede he may have already left Albania.
It is not the first time Kadi's name has surfaced in relation to international terrorism. Kadi, who co-owns the Karavan Construction company and heads the Saudi-based Muwafaq charity foundation, is on the 12 October U.S. government list of individuals and organizations suspected of having terrorist links.
Prime Minister Ilir Meta told the Albanian parliament this week that over the past month, five people have been expelled from the country for threatening Albania's relations with other countries. He said an additional 223 foreigners have been asked to leave for holding invalid residency permits.
Meta also said his government has frozen the bank accounts and property of Kadi and several Arab companies. Authorities have singled out several foreign NGOs and companies -- mainly engaged in religious activities -- as under suspicion for illegal operations. Anti-money laundering teams are pursuing nine cases and say further investigations are underway. Meta said: "We identified the financial entities active in our country that are financially linked to the Al-Qaeda network. This action continues in cooperation with the Prosecutor-General's Office."
Shkelqim Cani is the governor of the State Bank of Albania, the country's central bank. Cani says that although the frozen bank accounts are in two particular banks, he suspects several more banks may be benefiting from servicing terrorists' accounts and transactions.
He says his office cannot measure the dimensions of the phenomenon, but adds that the Finance Ministry is legally obliged to do it: "The first point has to do with the same answer, which is: the Ministry of Finance is responsible for [identification of money laundering, transactions, and accounts]. There are not two banks that have benefited -- several have."
In addition to their possible terrorist ties, the twin towers -- which are being built across the street from Meta's office -- are considered an architectural eyesore as well. Maks Velo is a well-known architect, painter, and author. He says the twin towers have destroyed both the architecture and the ethics of law in Tirana: "It seems to me that Al-Qaeda stabbed us twice, in the body and in the head of the Albanian capital. I am convinced that these [two buildings] should be razed. It can't be predicted how much damage they will cause over time, because the result is going to be our becoming accustomed to the destruction of public places. I am confident that the economic damage is insignificant. Surely, the prime minister, the minister of construction, those who made such things happen, the mayor, the chief architect, and the municipal territory regulation council, are to be blamed."