UN Leader Decries Sanctions' Side-Effects


SERBIA is not alone in feeling the bite of economic sanctions in the Balkans these days. Neighbors such as Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary also feel it, and the resulting economic instability could even lead to a widening of the war.

So argues Stoyan Ganev, foreign minister of Bulgaria and current president of the United Nations General Assembly. He says he will lay out Bulgaria's plight in a speech Wednesday before the steering committee of the International Conference on the former Yugoslavia in Geneva.

Mr. Ganev says his nation deserves both technical help to implement such sanctions and compensation for damages. He says the UN sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro have cost Bulgaria $1.2 billion in interrupted trade, tourism, construction, and energy losses over the last six months. Most Bulgarian exports had moved by train across Serbia to Macedonia and West Europe.

"Everything now is blocked," he says. "From an economic point of view, we are an isolated island in the Balkans."

Ganev notes that Bulgaria also abides by UN sanctions against Libya and Iraq and has lost $3 billion just from the latter over the last few years. He says that some solution - be it World Bank loans or some kind of UN voluntary compensation fund - is vital.

He sees such action as a form of preventative diplomacy, an area where the UN hopes to become more active. Ganev argues that the world has a direct stake in the stability of eastern European nations such as his that are struggling to keep democratic rule and develop free market economies.

The party representing Bulgaria's sizeable Turkish minority, which faces particularly serious economic challenges, has shown signs of shifting its support from the ruling coalition to the socialists, a decision that helped to usher in the collapse of Bulgaria's first post-communist government in October. Unemployment, inflation, and foreign debt now stand at record highs in Bulgaria. The result, he says, could be increased ethnic tension.

Ganev, who also keeps a busy schedule in his largely ceremonial role as General Assembly president, hopes to fly back from Geneva in time to help wind up the Assembly's business before it recesses Friday.

In his view, the General Assembly should take a more activist role at this time when fast-erupting conflicts often outpace the Security Council's ability to respond to them. He says the Assembly could do more in preventative diplomacy and peacemaking, for instance. "There are maybe 100 situations in the world where the UN must react," he says. "Why [should it be] only the Security Council?"

He also says the Assembly's financial and budget committee and should work more closely with the Council on peacekeeper finance issues. Yet the Council remains the primary mechanism for maintaining world security, he says, and generally works well. Any changes by the General Assembly should aim only at improving the relationship and giving it a better balance.

The Assembly is taking an active role in discussing UN reforms proposed in the secretary-general's "Agenda for Peace." Just last week the Assembly adopted a resolution for the first time that asks the secretary-general to invite member states to submit written comments by the end of June on the question of a more representative membership for the Security Council. Ganev says he believes there will be some changes in Council membership by 1995 but that "we must be very careful."

The Assembly has been working fast and furiously to pass hundreds of resolutions before its Dec. 18 recess. These range from calls for an early end to all nuclear tests to a bid for all states to halt such human rights abuses as enforced disappearances.

Ganev, a constitutional lawyer by training, and at age 37 the youngest General Assembly president yet, likens the 179-member body to a world parliament and says he would like to see such resolutions have a stronger practical effect.

Still, in his three months of listening to speeches in the Assembly hall he has come to appreciate the value of UN discussions. At the start he says he thought action was more important than talk. Now he says he considers the talk here important in itself and often a vital first step to action.

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