SECURITY COUNCIL CRITICIZES LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES.
At a meeting on 6
March chaired by President Boris Yeltsin, the Security Council condemned the
Interior Ministry, the Federal Counterintelligence Service, and the
Prosecutor's Office for failing to take adequate steps to combat crime,
agencies reported. "This situation discredits the power of the state,
diminishes faith in it, and threatens the national security of Russia," said a
statement issued by the President's Office after the meeting, which was
prompted by the murder last week of TV journalist Vladislav Listev. The
statement went on to say that implementation of the anti-crime program adopted
in June 1994 was at risk because of insufficient funding. The council
reportedly drew up a series of proposals aimed at making the fight against
crime more effective, but no details were given. The Interior Ministry has set
up a task force headed by Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Kulikov to help
Moscow law enforcement agencies solve serious crimes, especially contract
killings, Interfax reported on 6 March. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.
PONOMAREV AND PANKRATOV DISMISSED.
Before the Security Council meeting,
acting Prosecutor-General Alexei Ilyushenko formally dismissed Moscow
Prosecutor Gennady Ponomarev, despite earlier reports that Yeltsin had
rethought his decision to sack him. Ponomarev subsequently told Interfax he
feared that a crackdown on crime could lead to police lawlessness, warning that
emergency measures should not be taken without guarantees that the constitution
would be respected. His replacement, Sergei Gerasimov, described Ponomarev's
removal as unjust, telling Russian TV that it "destabilizes the situation and
plays into the hands of criminals." A deputy Moscow prosecutor, meanwhile,
expressed doubt that Listev's murder would be solved, and a Moscow police
official said he thought that although the men who killed Listev might be
caught, those who ordered his assassination would go free, Interfax reported.
Also on 6 March, Interior Minister Viktor Yerin went ahead with a
recommendation by Yeltsin to dismiss Moscow police chief Vladimir Pankratov,
appointing Nikolai Kulikov to act in his stead. Kulikov, hitherto the head of
the criminal investigation division of the capital's police force, said he
planned no major policy changes. Yeltsin's decision to fire Ponomarev and
Pankratov has been harshly criticized, in particular by Moscow Mayor Yury
Luzhkov. Reuters cited an official in the presidential administration as saying
the situation "could lead to a full-blown political crisis. Luzhkov is too
powerful to be treated like this." -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.
GOVERNMENT NEWSPAPER GOES ON THE OFFENSIVE.
Rossiiskaya gazeta, a
heavily-subsidized organ of the Russian executive branch, accused the State
Duma's Yabloko faction of exploiting Listev's murder on 4 March. Yabloko has
advocated Yeltsin's resignation and acts of civil disobedience if the killers
of Listev and Dmitry Kholodov (the investigative reporter who was murdered in
October 1994) are not found within a month. Rossiiskaya gazeta charged
that Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky, who "seems to give the impression of an
educated and intelligent man," knows that such investigations take time and is
using Listev's death to further his own presidential aspirations. The article
also attacked unnamed journalists who called for a week-long media strike to
protest violence against their colleagues, saying subscribers who have paid for
daily news coverage "may easily take the strikers to court." -- Laura Belin,
JOURNALIST CRITICIZES SECURITY COUNCIL . . .
The Security Council has
failed in its original purpose of balancing political and economic interests
against the demands of the military, security agencies, and police within the
government, Tamara Zamyatina, an ITAR-TASS commentator, wrote in Rossiiskie
vesti on 7 March. It failed to play that role when the power ministries
began to dominate the political situation. The council's real power lies in its
10 interdepartmental commissions, rather than in its occasional meetings.
Deputy Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rubanov said the main cause for the
disastrous Chechnya policy was that the regional policy committee, chaired by
Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai, had no sense of guiding principles on
how to conduct relations between Moscow and members of the federation. The
article also criticized the council for its secretive decision-making
procedures, conjecturing that council members do not want any publicity so that
they can avoid taking responsibility for their actions. -- Robert Orttung,
. . . AND VICE VERSA.
In the same issue of Rossiiskie vesti,
Security Council press secretary Valery Kadzhaya denounced the media's numerous
"false reports" in recent months. He noted errors in newspaper accounts of the
council's investigation following last October's ruble crash. He called media
coverage of the Chechen crisis "disgraceful," saying it damaged the soldiers'
morale, but denied the council had ever accused reporters of being "Dudaev's
accomplices." He blamed reporters in the mass media for citing nonexistent
documents "instead of the established facts," especially in speculative
"behind-the-scenes" stories on the council. In particular, Kadzhaya faulted
journalists for relying on anonymous sources, whom he compared to the
"informers" of the past. Only those "without a clear conscience" insist on
anonymity, he wrote, while "decent" and "honest" people are not afraid to speak
on the record. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.
RUSSIA SETS CONDITIONS FOR NATO EXPANSION.
Russian Deputy Foreign
Minister Georgy Mamedov set three conditions for NATO expansion eastward during
talks with US officials at the end of February, AFP reported on 6 March.
According to diplomatic and military sources, Russia wants a formal permanent
body set up to hold consultations with NATO. Russia also wants no additional
troops and no nuclear weapons deployed on new members' territory. On the first
point, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry has suggested a less formal
consultative body. NATO has reacted coolly to any troop and nuclear weapons
restrictions. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
EU DELAYS RUSSIAN TRADE ACCORD.
EU foreign ministers, meeting in
Brussels on 6 March, decided to postpone the implementation of an interim trade
accord with Russia, international agencies reported. The ministers had decided
to go ahead with the accord in January but reversed that decision largely
because of the Chechen war. They told French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe to
inform the Russian leadership during an 8-10 March visit that the pact will
only go ahead after the EU is satisfied that human rights are being respected.
Juppe said, "We do not want to isolate Russia, we do want to make it clear
Russia has to respect commitments entered into with the EU." Although British
Defense Minister Douglas Hurd said the EU is not issuing an ultimatum, he did
mention three areas in which it is looking for improvement: progress on a
political settlement, a stronger OSCE presence, and better humanitarian aid
access. The Financial Times reported that the meeting was tense, with
one official saying, "Germany is fearful of doing anything that could drive
Russia away. But others, such as Denmark and the Netherlands, want to hold up
the trade pact to send a strong message to Moscow." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI,
HORN DENOUNCES HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN CHECHNYA.
Hungarian Prime Minister
Gyula Horn denounced human rights abuses in Chechnya prior to meeting with
Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in Moscow on 6 March, international
agencies reported. Horn was accompanied by his foreign minister, Laszlo Kovacs,
who currently holds the rotating OSCE chairmanship, and Istvan Gyarmati, who
headed an OSCE mission to Chechnya in late January. Horn's talks with
Chernomyrdin are expected to include discussions on Chechnya and bilateral
economic matters. Chernomyrdin said Russia and Hungary have no political
disagreements and "we are great partners and we have a potential for very
important economic development." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
SVERDLOVSK GOVERNOR, DUMA BATTLE OVER ELECTIONS.
Governor Alexei Strakhov criticized the local Duma for trying to schedule
elections for governor, Interfax reported on 6 March. He said his
administration is not afraid of standing for election but that he does not
consider it necessary to do so before the adoption of appropriate legislation
on the federal and local levels. At present, Yeltsin appoints all governors. --
Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
YELTSIN PLANS VACATION.
President Yeltsin may leave on a two-week
vacation in the second half of March, a Kremlin source told Interfax on 6
March. The source said Yeltsin will probably spend time on the Black Sea coast,
as he did in 1993 and 1994. He will use the time away from Moscow to develop
strategic plans in the areas of the economy, formation of political
institutions, and local governments. The source said he is likely to pay
special attention to military reform. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
INFLATION AT 11% FOR FEBRUARY.
Russia's inflation rate has slowed to
11%, down from January's 17.8% level, the government's Business Conditions
Center reported to Russian sources on 6 March. The lowest monthly inflation
rate in five months, the number shows that "the measures adopted by the
government are starting to be felt," a center representative said. First Deputy
Premier Anatoly Chubais said the "inflation dynamics have been broken" and
expected further decreases in future months, AFP reported. -- Thomas Sigel,
RUBLE CONTINUES STEADY FALL.
The ruble lost 27 points in MICEX trading
on 6 March, closing at 4,585 rubles/$1, the Financial Information Service
reported. The initial demand dropped by $53.94 million compared with the
previous trading session to $63.95 million. The initial supply was $50.25
million. According to currency dealers, when the mid-trading rate was at 4,582
rubles/$1, the Central Bank withdrew bids for $3.68 million and then at 4,583
rubles for $5 million more. Toward the end of the session, the Central Bank
intervened in the market and offered $5 million for sale. Same-day contract
settlement rates were 4,584-4587 rubles/$1, with one-day spot rates at
4,593-4596 rubles/$1. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.
FIRST START INSPECTIONS WENT WELL.
A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman
said American inspectors had been satisfied at the three strategic nuclear
missile bases they inspected during the last several days, Interfax reported on
6 March. The inspectors looked at a rail-mobile SS-24 base near Kostroma in
European Russia and two bases in Siberia: a road-mobile SS-25 base near Irkutsk
and a base near Yasnya which once held SS-11 ICBMs. The spokesman said two
additional American teams arrived in Moscow on 5 March. A team of Russian
inspectors flew to the United States on 4 March to conduct similar inspections.
-- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.
MILITARY SERVICE UNPOPULAR.
Seventy per cent of the conscripts from
military districts in Western Russia do not want to serve in the armed forces,
according to the Russian Youth Committee. The committee also said 50% of the
youths thought that notions such as military honor were part of the past and
"now lack sense," Interfax reported on 6 March. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.
ARMENIA TO PRIVATIZE LARGE STATE ENTERPRISES.
The first auction to sell
off blocks of shares in large and medium-sized state-owned enterprises in
Armenia will take place on 12 March, according to a spokesman for the Armenian
State Commission for Privatization, Interfax reported on 2 March. Residents and
foreign investors will have the same right to acquire shares. Non-residents
will be able to exchange foreign currency for Armenian drams at a special rate
on the day of auction. Before the end of 1995, 46.89% of all government-owned
enterprises are to be privatized. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.
PROBLEMS WITH RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN TREATY.
Russian First Deputy Prime
Minister Oleg Soskovets said serious differences remain between Russia and
Ukraine over the treaty on friendship and cooperation initialed on 8 February
in Kiev, Reuters reported on 6 March. Russia continues to demand that
Sevastopol serve as a base for its share of the Black Sea Fleet, while Ukraine
insists the base be shared with the Ukrainian Navy. There has also been little
progress on resolving Ukraine's $2.5 billion energy debt to Russia. The problem
of dual citizenship was left out of the treaty altogether and is to be
addressed in a separate document. When the treaty was initialed by the first
deputy prime ministers of the two countries, it was reported that Yeltsin would
visit Kiev to sign the agreement in late March. However, reports that Yeltsin
plans a two-week vacation at the end of this month have cast doubts on the
planned visit. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
WALESA APPOINTS GOVERNMENT, CONFLICT SUBSIDES.
President Lech Walesa
formally appointed Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy and the new cabinet on 6 March,
Radio Warsaw reported. In what a spokesman called a "good-will gesture," the
president also announced he was withdrawing his constitutional complaint
against the 1995 budget, which, he said, he would sign into law. The budget
still violates constitutional norms, the spokesman argued, but the president
had decided to give the new government a chance. Walesa said that he "did not
intend to limit the government's independence" but noted that "the Presidency
is also an institution of executive power." Also on 6 March, the president
vetoed a constitutional amendment that would have allowed the Sejm to remain in
session until new elections in the event of the dissolution of the parliament.
Under current law, the parliament ceases to meet. The legislation was adopted
when Walesa's threats to dissolve the parliament were most pronounced. --
Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.
OLEKSY SETS NEW STYLE.
The new prime minister's first decisions signaled
an end to the decision-making paralysis that plagued his predecessor. Oleksy on
7 March appointed Jerzy Stanczyk, the candidate endorsed by the internal
affairs minister, as commander of the national police force. The post had been
vacant for nearly a month, and the police had effectively lacked leadership
since the ousted commander was implicated in a corruption scandal last year.
The prime minister also announced the formation of a special task force on
crime. The new government's concern for good public relations was clear in
Oleksy's selection of former TV reporter Aleksandra Jakubowska as press
spokesman. Jakubowska said journalists would always be welcome at government
headquarters. Friction between the two coalition partners was also immediately
evident: the Polish Peasant Party protested Oleksy's decision to appoint Labor
Minister Leszek Miller of the Democratic Left Alliance to head the government's
social policy committee. At Oleksy's request, all cabinet members signed a
statement saying they could not be implicated in any crimes or scandals. --
Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.
CRIMEAN EX-PARLIAMENT SPEAKER JUST FAILS TO BE RE-ELECTED.
parliament on 6 March nearly reinstated its chairman, Serhii Tsekov, only days
after it pressured him to resign, Reuters and Interfax-Ukraine reported the
same day. Tsekov, who served as intermediary during the power struggle last
fall between Crimean President Yurii Meshkov and the legislature, fell one vote
short of the absolute majority he needed in the 98-member parliament to regain
his post. The other candidate was Mykhailo Shumakov, a factory manager. A
second round of voting is expected later in the week. The power vacuum on the
peninsula following Tsekov's resignation last week and the stripping of most of
the Crimean president's powers by parliament last autumn has prompted calls for
early elections to the Crimean legislature. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI,
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT IN BRUSSELS.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka flew to the
Belgian capital on 5 March for a three-day visit with heads of the European
Union, Belarusian Radio reported. Before his departure, Lukashenka said this
was probably his most important visit in the past six months. He stressed its
economic significance, saying that the EU accounted for 35% of Belarusian
exports, or almost all exports outside the CIS. Asked about the possibility of
meeting with NATO officials, Lukashenka said it was necessary to inform the
organization of the financial difficulties Belarus was encountering in
scrapping military hardware, as required by the CFE treaty. Belarusian Foreign
Minister Uladzimir Syanko said the visit demonstrated that Belarusian foreign
policy is multifaceted and not solely Russian-oriented, as many people believe.
-- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
PARLIAMENT ELECTIONS IN BELARUS.
Alyaksandr Abramovich, head of the
Central Electoral Commission, said on 3 March that there will be 260 electoral
districts in the parliament elections scheduled for 14 May, Belarusian Radio
reported. In order to nominate a candidate, a support group must collect 500
signatures from among the electorate. Candidates may be nominated by both
political parties and the public. Judges, ministers, and other officials
appointed by the president cannot run for the parliament. The registration of
candidates will last one month, after which the election campaign kicks off. --
Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
ESTONIAN ELECTION UPDATE.
Elections results released in the late
afternoon of 6 March differed slightly from those issued in the morning, BNS
reported. Pro Patria won eight and not seven seats and the Center Party 16 not
17. Coalition Party Chairman and likely prime minister Tiit Vahi refuted claims
that the results indicated "a victory for the Left and a return of the former
communists." He pointed out that the number of communists in his alliance was
no greater than in many other alliances. Vahi also said he will hold talks with
the right-of-center Reform Party, the Center Party, and the Rightists as
possible coalition partners. Voter turnout in the 5 March parliament elections
was 69.1%. The 52 international observers found no serious faults in the
organization of the elections and no gross violations of the election law. --
Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
GROWING ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION IN LATVIA.
The State Statistical Committee
reported that in 1994, Latvians consumed an average of 7.77 liters of absolute
alcohol, BNS reported on 3 March. That figure was broken down as follows: 4.96
liters of vodka, 0.98 liters of wine, 0.30 liters of cognac, 0.30 liters of
champagne, and 1.23 liters of beer. Per capita consumption of absolute alcohol
was 5.23 liters in 1992 and 6.4 liters in 1993. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI,
FINNISH FOREIGN MINISTER IN LITHUANIA.
Paavo Rantanen flew to Vilnius on
3 March on a one-day working visit, BNS reported. Talks with Lithuanian Foreign
Minister Povilas Gylys focused on improving bilateral relations. The two
leaders discussed visa-free travel between their countries, which will depend
on Lithuania's control over its borders. Rantanen expressed support for
Lithuania's effort to gain associate membership in the European Union and said
he hoped that a major stumbling block, the ban on the sale of land to
foreigners, will be resolved. The parliament began discussing a constitutional
amendment to allow foreign ownership of land, but the amendment will have to be
approved by the opposition because passage requires a two-thirds majority vote.
-- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
SLOVAK INTELLIGENCE SERVICE UNDER CABINET CONTROL.
Movement for a
Democratic Slovakia deputy Dusan Macuska on 6 March proposed to the parliament
that the power to remove and appoint the director of the Slovak Intelligence
Service be transferred from the president to the government, Narodna
obroda reported. Macuska said the proposal is logical because the SIS
director is responsible to the Council of State Defense, of which the president
is not a member and of which the prime minister is chairman. He said it does
not make sense that the power to name the SIS director remains in the hands of
the president, "who does not have the support of the parliament or even of the
majority of the population." Rejecting claims that the proposal will lead to a
concentration of power, Macuska said it is a move against such a concentration
"in the hands of the president." Of the 79 deputies present (those from the
opposition did not attend the session), 75 voted in favor and four abstained.
The parliament also began to discuss the cabinet's 1995 budget draft, which
Party of the Democratic Left Deputy Chairwoman Brigita Schmoegnerova called
"more restrictive" than that of the previous government. -- Sharon Fisher,
SLOVAK COALITION REACTS TO PRESS STATEMENT.
A number of Slovak
dailies--including Sme, Pravda, Praca, and Narodna
obroda--on 6 March printed a front page featuring a single statement
entitled "Anxiety." The statement, dated 3 March, was signed by leading dailies
(both national and regional), magazines, the Presidium of the Association of
Publishers of the Periodical Press (ZVPT), and the Slovak Syndicate of
Journalists. It begins: "We express anxiety concerning the efforts to raise
value-added tax for periodical and non-periodical press; to discriminate
against foreign capital in this area; to limit advertising revenues, which
would raise prices; and other efforts to exacerbate the already difficult
situation of newspapers and magazines." The parliament caucuses of the
governing parties, reacting to the statement, said the proposal to raise taxes
has not been submitted for discussion in the current session of parliament,
Pravda reports. Deputy Premier Katarina Tothova said she met on 3 March
with members of the ZVPT Presidium and assured them that neither the government
nor the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia wants to bring such a proposal
before the parliament. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.
CROATIA AND BOSNIA SET UP JOINT MILITARY COMMAND.
International media on
7 March reported that the governments of Croatia and the Croatian-Muslim
federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina announced a new military alliance the
previous day. It is not clear whether this is a concrete measure or one of
mainly symbolic value, but it comes three weeks after the Serbs in Bosnia and
Croatia took a similar step. The Boston Globe notes that Croatian
Television ran the story about the Croatian-Muslim command in its 6 March
newscast right behind one on talks between US Assistant Secretary of State
Richard Holbrooke and President Franjo Tudjman. The media speculated that
Holbrooke had wanted to present new ideas to Tudjman on possible ways to extend
UNPROFOR's mandate in Croatia, but Croatian sources later said that the two men
talked only about what would happen when the peacekeepers left. In any event,
Croatian Chief-of-Staff General Janko Bobetko's announcement that the joint
command will "defend the Croatian-Muslim federation" is one more sign that a
renewed conflict in the area may be in the offing. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI,
MLADIC SAYS UNPROFOR MUST LEAVE BOSNIA IF IT LEAVES CROATIA.
Serb commander General Ratko Mladic said on 6 March that the peacekeepers are
not welcome in that republic if Tudjman evicts them from Croatia, the BBC
reported. Meanwhile in Brussels, the EU foreign ministers endorsed a British
and French proposal to link talks with Zagreb on a future cooperation agreement
to Tudjman's allowing UNPROFOR to stay. Germany, Austria, and the EU Commission
had wanted to start talks without reference to UNPROFOR, the Frankfurter
Allgemeine Zeitung reported on 7 March. In Bosnia itself, Vjesnik
reported that Pale has levied a monthly per capita tax of about DM 200 on
Bosnian Serbs working abroad. All sides in the former Yugoslavia have regularly
"passed the hat" among the guest workers. And in London, Bosnian Foreign
Minister Irfan Ljubijancic told the BBC that the West is wasting its time
making political offers to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, because "the
only language he understands is force." Nasa Borba adds that the
minister warned that an expanded war is approaching. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI,
CONTACT GROUP TO RESUME MEETINGS ON FORMER YUGOSLAVIA.
on 7 March reported that representatives of the international Contact Group
will resume talks in Paris the same day in what appears to be a renewed bid to
avert a new war in the former Yugoslavia. One unnamed British official, quoted
by Reuters, summed up the mood by observing "The clock is ticking. . . . It's a
question of getting all hands on deck." Meanwhile, a report by Thorvald
Stoltenberg and Lord Owen states that the international sanctions monitoring
team stationed along the Serbian-Bosnian border is running out of funds, which
may force the operation to close down. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.
SLOVENIA TO NEGOTIATE WITH EU.
International media reported on 6 March
that the European Union has given the go-ahead for officials to begin
negotiations with Slovenia on an association agreement. The announcement came
in the wake of Italy's agreeing to drop its veto on an EU agreement with
Ljubljana. AFP reported that the Slovenian capital has responded to Italy's
move with a commitment "to modify by the end of its negotiations with the
European Union, articles in its constitution discriminating against its large
Italian minority." An association agreement offers the possibility of eventual
EU membership. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.
ROMANIAN-HUNGARIAN TREATY NEGOTIATIONS.
Ferenc Somogyi, secretary of
state at the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, began a two-day visit to
Bucharest on 6 March, Romanian media reported the same day. Somogyi and his
Romanian counterpart, Marcel Dinu, are expected to sign a document accompanying
the basic treaty between the two countries. Expert-level negotiations on the
treaty resumed in Budapest at the same time. Radio Bucharest, quoting MTI,
reported on 7 March that the only outstanding issue to be resolved is that of
national minorities. The previous day, Radio Bucharest reported that two new
ethnic Hungarian organizations in Romania had issued a declaration noting the
worsening situation of Hungarian minorities in "neighboring countries where
aggressive nationalism is growing" and claiming that those minorities are
facing a process of "assimilation and cultural genocide." The International
Transylvanian Committee and the National Union of Transylvanian Circles insist
that the "right to self-determination" for the Hungarian minorities must be
included in basic treaties. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.
ROMANIAN OFFICIALS OVERSEEING NUCLEAR POWER PLANT CONSTRUCTION
Romanian Industry Minister Dumitru Popescu told Rompres on 6
March that two officials in charge of the construction of the nuclear power
plant at Cernavoda have been dismissed and that the administrative council of
the state electricity company RENEL has ceased to function. A new council will
be appointed within five days. Popescu said that there were "unjustified
delays" of three to four months in the construction at Cernavoda. He also
accused the dismissed officials of delaying negotiations with the
Canadian-Italian consortium supervising the work. The talks were to focus on
the financing of a second unit at Cernavoda. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.
MOLDOVA'S GAGAUZ MINORITY BACKS AUTONOMY.
The commission responsible for
implementing the special status of the Gagauz autonomous region announced on 6
March that at least 27 of the 36 ethnically mixed districts that participated
in the 5 March referendum have voted to join the region, Interfax reported
According to the same source, seven districts have decided not to join and the
results from two districts are not yet available. But Reuters, quoting Moldovan
officials, said 30 districts have decided to join. In some districts, the vote
in favor was close to 90%. Observers from the Council of Europe praised the
referendum as fair and said they hoped it will enable Moldova to speed up its
membership in the council. One observer said that if other ethnic groups in
other countries "could live together as well as you live in this country, the
world would be more peaceful." Fears that other ethnic groups in southern
Moldova would boycott the vote proved unfounded. Gagauz leader Stepan Topal
told Interfax that the districts joining the autonomous region will not
participate in the local elections scheduled elsewhere in Moldova for 16 April.
Elections in the autonomous region are set for May. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI,
EU AND TURKEY CONCLUDE CUSTOMS UNION.
The European Union and Turkey on 6
March signed a customs union agreement, AFP reported the same day. The accord,
which will take effect on 1 January 1996, virtually incorporates Turkey into
the EU's single market. Some Turkish industries will remain protected from EU
competition, and Turkish agricultural exports will still face restrictions.
Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller said the deal is a "crucial turning point"
in the country's history, adding it will "pave the way for political and
financial integration with Europe." Politicians and diplomats from EU member
states agreed that the customs union will mean closer Turkish ties to the West
and may prevent that country from sliding toward Islamic fundamentalism. Greece
lifted its veto against the customs union on 3 March in return for an EU
commitment to start membership talks with Cyprus, probably in 1997. The customs
union can still be overruled by the European Parliament, which has threatened
to vote it down because of Turkey's poor human rights record. -- Stefan Krause,
[As of 12:00 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave