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Transition Nations' Press Review

  • Don Hill

Prague, 17 February 1999 (RFE/RL) -- A strikingly consistent theme runs through several recent commentaries from the transition nations' press -- the state of relations with neighboring nations.

Moscow-based press focuses on relations within the Russian government and between the government and parliament.


In Bulgaria, both the Standart daily and Novinar daily focus on an agreement reached with Macedonia on the "official" languages to be used in 22 bilateral treaties that had been delayed by the language issue. Novinar publishes the comments of Krasimir Karakachanov -- leader of WMRO, the main party in Bulgaria of ethnic Macedonians. Karakachanov writes: "This agreement doesn't mean we recognize the Macedonian language. It means we unlock our relations and open the way to sign 22 bilateral agreements. It was important to find a compromise and we found it."

Karakachanov says also: "The most important thing is that Macedonia gives up its territorial claims in Bulgaria, which is a courageous step by new Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubcho Georgievski."

Standart publishes this commentary: "With this agreement ... Bulgaria finally comes out of the isolation imposed by the Cold War and becomes an important regional power in southeastern Europe."


Tatarstan's weekly Mokovskii komsomolets v Tatarstane provides comments on the apparent agreement of Bashkortostan to give the Tatar language special status in territories where ethnic Tatars are in the majority. The newspaper says: "An impression can be brought from conversations with officials that Tatarstan exerts strong pressure on Bashkortostan but prefers not to advertise it so that Bashkortostani President Murtaza Rakhimov can save face. Tatarstan is too sovereign to raise the question, for example, in the [Russian] Federation Council."


In Kyrgyzstan's government newspaper Slovo Kyrgyzstana, Daniyar Usenov -- chairman of parliament's Committee on Banking, Taxes and Customs Duties -- seems to take government leadership to task for vagueness in dealing with economic woes in Kyrgyzstan stemming from those in Russia.

Usenov writes: "The Russian economic crisis stimulated efforts to work out problems in Kyrgyzstan." He adds: "But, unfortunately, we have seen the negative results only. Good intentions are manifest only in political declarations. We need concrete steps."

Usenov says the leadership "can't even determine what kind of crisis there is in Kyrgyzstan" -- economic, financial or systemic. He writes: "The economy began to fall in the late 1980s. Only the pace of the fall is different. The recovery program is based on Statistical Board data, which are far from reality."


Dienna in Latvia publishes the words of Vagit Alekperov, president of the Russian oil company Lukoil. Alekperov discusses Lukoil's reasons for cutting off oil to Latvia's Maizekai oil refinery (which Lukoil has, unsuccessfully so far, sought to buy into).

Alekperov says: "If it were our property, we would take responsibility for its operations, successful utilization and staff. Presently, our company hasn't any cause to take this responsibility. This is not pressure. We merely present our conditions. It is their business to accept them or not." He says of Maizekai: "One doesn't build a terminal first and only then ponder how to utilize it."

In its own commentary later, Dienna says that a letter of intent regarding Maizekai hasn't been signed because political agreement must be reached first.


Estonia's Postimees discusses a job action last fall among Estonian peace forces in Bosnia. Postimees asks: "Did the military leadership act rightly last autumn in postponing punishment of the organizers of the 'salary rebellion'?" The newspaper says: "The chairman of the general staff, Ants Laaneots, says the decision was based on the advice of the Danish military that the company leadership and soldiers remain unpunished because the Danes gave them high marks." Postimees says: "Strike threats in the army are absolutely impermissible and indicate serious discipline problems."


In Russia, writers Maxim Zhukov and Dmitry Kamyshev comment in Kommersant daily about a proposed truce between the Duma -- the lower house of Parliament -- and the Kremlin. The writers say: "As we have mentioned already, the [truce draft] was submitted to the Duma by the Security Council on February 5, and, unlike [Prime Minister Yevgeny] Primakov's 'peace treaty', does not contain the idea of reducing the powers of the president and the deputies. It has one item with which the Duma is unlikely to quarrel, that of forbidding dismissal of the government without consultations with all the three branches of power."

The writers say also: "According to our sources in the presidential administration, the Kremlin plans to finish work [on the truce] 'on the condition of the Duma's constructive cooperation.' However, this will happen only if the Communists do not demand that their own proposals be used as the basis."

Writer Elizaveta Osetlinskaya comments in Segodnya on reports that ousted Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin be politically resurrected as Russia's representative at negotiations with the International Monetary Fund. She comments: "Within three days Viktor Chernomyrdin was brought back from political non-existence. It was Yevgeny Primakov who gave a hand to the leader of a dying party whose name the media had already struck off the list of candidates for president. Only the prime minister could have spread information about the possibility of appointing Chernomyrdin the representative at the negotiations with the IMF and proposing him as a candidate for Gazprom's Board of Directors."

The writer comments: "Yevgeny Primakov has never been a philanthropist before, and thus the revival of Chernomyrdin's political status must be somehow profitable for the prime minister. In particular, he will have the chance to simplify decisions about some debt and budget problems. It is an open secret that Chernomyrdin is on almost friendly terms with the administrations of the IMF and the World Bank, as well as U.S. Vice President Al Gore and some members of the American Congress."