Yugoslavia's neighbors feel sanctions Mounting losses expected to worsen

May 22, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- The United Nations sanctions imposed on Yugoslavia have cost the other Danube Basin nations more than $12 billion in the last 11 months -- more than they have cost Yugoslavia, the governments of countries in the basin say.

With the tightening of the sanctions by the Security Council on April 26, the Danube basin countries' losses in transportation, trade and industry are expected to grow in the coming months.

The embargo, begun in June against Yugoslavia, which consists of Serbia and Montenegro, has cost it $4 billion, Belgrade estimated last week.

Viewed during a tour of the lower Danube this month aboard a Romanian Air Force helicopter, the broad surface of Europe's mightiest waterway flowed unruffled by the wake of a single vessel.

At the twin cities of Giurgiu, Romania, and Ruse, Bulgaria, normally bustling river ports, there was not a moving ship in sight. The same eerie calm prevailed for 40 miles upstream.

"It is a disaster for Romania," said Capt. Tudor Tataoana, the harbor master of Giurgiu. "We can't import and we can't export."

He pointed out his window, facing Ruse across the river, to scores of idled barges, tugs, and tourist ships. Among them were six Austrian barges and a Yugoslav oil tanker that had been here for months because they carry strategic cargoes and are therefore not permitted to travel into the Serbian section of the river, which begins 250 miles upstream. Skeleton crews guarded them.

At Giurgiu, Deputy Customs Director Ion Bigica said: "Normally this is like a major railway. Eight or 10 barge convoys from Russia and Ukraine, four or five from Bulgaria, plus the Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians. And we Romanians have the biggest fleet on the Danube.

"Nothing is going now. Zero."

Captain Tataoana said the sanctions had virtually closed Giurgiu's port, which on an average day serviced eight Danube vessels needing fuel or other supplies or loading and unloading.

"The Romanian economy was not in good shape to begin with," Mr. Bigica said in his office at the foot of Friendship Bridge, which carries road traffic across the Danube. "But we have made this sacrifice in the hope that powerful countries will help us."

Outside, scores of double trailer trucks from Europe and the Middle East were lined up on the narrow highway for half a mile, waiting to be processed by customs officials.

The heavy road traffic is also a consequence of the Balkan conflict, Mr. Bigica said, since nearly all vehicles traveling between central Europe and Greece, Turkey and beyond have to detour around the war zone through Bulgaria and Romania.

A number of Danube basin countries have filed for compensation under Article 50 of the United Nations Charter, which permits governments to "consult" the Security Council on damages incurred by observing its resolutions, like the Yugoslav embargo. But there is no compensation mechanism, and an official of the 15-member sanctions committee said, "There is no money for indemnification."

A U.S. official said, "We are trying to steer talk away from indemnification. It's political dynamite."

Romanian officials estimate that the sanctions have already cost their country $7 billion.

Hungary claims losses of $500 million for the second half of 1992, and Ukraine has estimated losses of $2.3 billion so far. Volodymir Khandogy, a Ukrainian diplomat, said sanctions were "leading to the bankruptcy" of Ukraine Danube Shipping Co. and the idling of its 25,000 employees.

BALKAN UPDATE

In WASHINGTON, President Clinton expressed doubts about new efforts to reach an agreement to stop the war in former Yugoslavia. Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozeyrev expressed confidence that the U.S. and Russia would reach "some mutual plan of action."

In SARAJEVO, Bosnian Serb forces ignored a nonaggression pledge by their leaders and pressed to expel Muslim-led government troops from northern Bosnia. Tensions were high in central Bosnia, where fighting between government troops and Bosnian Croat forces was reported.

BELGRADE has told the UNITED NATIONS that plans to set up a war crimes tribunal to try those responsible for atrocities in the former Yugoslavia are discriminatory and not sanctioned by the U.N. Charter.

Plans to monitor a Yugoslav pledge to cut off arms to Bosnian Serbs were set back when Serb-dominated Yugoslavia rejected

plans for UNITED NATIONS supervision of its border with Bosnia. President Dobrica Cosic, a former supporter of the plan, said only that the world must trust Yugoslavia to keep its promise.

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