Related topics

Getting Around The Sanctions: A Way of Life in Yugoslavia With AM-Yugoslavia Rdp, Bjt

August 31, 1992 GMT

VATIN, Yugoslavia (AP) _ A young Romanian spat a mouthful of gasoline onto the parking-lot pavement, then plugged a siphon from his car’s gas tank into a container.

Romanians, among Europe’s poorest people, have found a new source of income - helping Yugoslavs get around tough United Nations sanctions. At a parking lot near the Romanian border, they sell gasoline for about $4 a gallon to Yugoslavs trying to augment meager state rations.

There are gaping holes in the U.N. embargo against Serbia and Montenegro, the only republics left in Yugoslavia.


″It’s a question of corruption,″ one Western diplomat said. ″You’re dealing with poor countries where border guards and customs officials are susceptible to bribery.″

Yugoslavia’s neighbors insist they are complying with the May 30 sanctions, aimed at punishing Yugoslavia for fomenting warfare in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Greece suspended all fuel exports across its northern border. That has left Macedonia, a former Yugoslav republic sandwiched between Greece and Serbia, strapped for fuel as well. Romania, which like Greece is normally Serbia’s ally, asked for international monitors to observe its compliance and set up a telephone hotline for citizens to report violations.

But in Yugoslavia, people circumvent the sanctions as best they can. Black marketeers hawk gasoline ration coupons and cigarettes - now practically unavailable in stores. People bribe gas station attendants to jump the queue.

Even taxi drivers, who have their own special gas stations, are affected.

″There are 10,000 taxis in Belgrade,″ said driver Jovan Djordjevic. ″We wait up to 10 hours for gas.″

Belgrade bus stops are crowded because only half the normal number of buses are running. Gas lines stretching for miles look as endless as the parked cars on the street.

But poverty, corruption, the chaos wrought by war and the fall of Communist governments make full application of sanctions nearly impossible, whether in petty cases like gasoline smuggling or more serious ones.

Yugoslavs in motorboats regularly putter up to ships from former Soviet republics that traverse Serbia on the Danube River, Europe’s second longest.

Romania says it has prevented 26 Romanian and foreign vessels that have called in its ports from carrying goods to and from Yugoslavia since the sanctions took hold. But officials say their hands are tied if the ships stay out of port in the Danube’s international waters.

A Romanian list obtained by The Associated Press on the condition its source not be identified showed that of the 248 vessels on the river one day last week, seven were headed to or from Yugoslavia.

One was a passenger ship headed for Belgrade. The others carried cargoes ranging from metals to corn. Food is not a prohibited commodity under the sanctions.

It also is difficult to verify that ships are unloading in Yugoslav ports. At Pancevo, south of Belgrade, where a large oil refinery is located, the gate guard politely but firmly refused to allow reporters to enter the port.

Yugoslavia, which has only meager crude oil deposits, has increased production, but is still meeting only about 25 percent of demand, according to the respected economic weekly Ekonomska Politika.

Smugglers also circumvent the embargo by declaring on waybills that goods shipped to Yugoslavia are headed for third countries, say diplomats and businessmen familiar with the procedure.

Some of the goods supposedly are bound for Bosnia, on trucks carrying Bosnian license plates and accompanied by shipping documents adorned with Bosnian stamps.

But such license plates and stamps are relatively easy to procure from Serb-controlled areas of Bosnia.

Macedonia, with its porous borders to Serbia, is another leak in the sanctions wall.

Goods reportedly are imported by Macedonian companies, then sent on with new papers to Yugoslavia. Macedonian trucks are said to transport Serbian exports out via unpoliced back roads.

The Politika Ekspres daily recently quoted Desimir Andjelkovic, a district attorney in Lebane, in southern Serbia, as saying that a local company made a deal with a Macedonian company in mid-August to import about 15,000 gallons of gasoline from Greece. Andjelkovic described the deal, made before Greece closed its border to fuel exports, as legal.

On the border at Vatin, 60 miles northeast of Belgrade, Romanians and Yugoslavs do a brisk business.

At a parking lot near the border crossing, Romanians measured gasoline from their tanks in old soda or detergent bottles.

Romanians who have installed 26-gallon tanks in their cars meet Yugoslavs hauling trailers with empty oil drums concealed under tarpaulins.

After the sanctions were imposed, gasoline was rationed in Yugoslavia to 5.2 gallons per month at about $5.40 a gallon. The Romanians who buy theirs at $1.20 a gallon make a tidy profit at Vatin.

″You have to survive because it’s hard to find work,″ said Adrian, a Romanian who had sold 25 gallons of gasoline.

One Belgrade business owner - vendors and customers alike refused to give full names - said he buys about 104 gallons a month.