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Newsline - November 24, 1998


Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Federal Security Service director Vladimir Putin both ruled out on 23 November the imposition of a state of emergency in response to the murder of State Duma deputy Galina Starovoitova. Meanwhile, St. Petersburg police have detained several suspects in the murder case. Ruslan Linkov, Starovoitova's press secretary, who was also shot in the attack, has regained consciousness and answered police questions. On 24 November, mourners, including former Prime Ministers Viktor Chernomyrdin and Sergei Kirienko and former acting Premier Yegor Gaidar, attended a funeral for Starovoitova, who will be interred at the Aleksandr Nevskii Monastery. JAC


Duma chairman Gennadii Seleznev has announced that he will sue a St. Petersburg newspaper for accusing him of Starovoitova's death. He also told reporters that television is presenting Starovoitova's murder in "such a way as to promote the election campaigns of certain candidates to the [St. Petersburg] city assembly." Elections to that body are scheduled for 6 December. Seleznev also suggested setting up a national council to fight crime and corruption. JAC


Presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin told NTV on 23 November that President Boris Yeltsin's health has neither worsened nor improved. The same day, CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii told reporters that Russia should simply tolerate President Yeltsin's chronic illnesses since "there is no obvious alternative." The next day "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which receives funding from Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, suggested that the succession of recent comments from Kremlin staff demonstrates that Yeltsin's entourage is preparing the country for the "official introduction of the post of the president's stand-in" and that "the stand-in could and should be Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov." "Izvestiya," which receives funding from LUKoil and Oneksimbank, argued that "the Kremlin has decided to bring the unduly modest prime minister to his senses using the constitution, which directly obliges him to become the interim president when the president is incapable of performing his duties." JAC


Russia on 20 November officially applied to its creditors to restructure debts inherited from the Soviet Union. Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said Russia will pay only $200 million of the $600 million debt up for repayment this year, the "Moscow Times" reported on 21 November. Next year, the government will owe $7.2 billion in payments on the Soviet debt, according to Reuters. The Primakov government also hopes to borrow new money from the IMF in order to refinance its debts to the fund and other international financial institutions. An IMF delegation is scheduled to leave Moscow on 24 November and is not expected to make any announcements of new loans before its departure. JAC


Meanwhile, the cabinet continues debating various versions of a draft budget. On 21 November, Economy Minister Andrei Shapovalyants said that the budget based on his ministry's "optimistic" forecast, namely of a 30 percent annual inflation rate and a 3 percent decline in GDP, will most likely be approved. The forecast also assumes that Russia will receive the next tranche of its IMF loan and will persuade its creditors to restructure half its foreign debts. The government has pledged to present its budget plan to the Duma by 1 December. JAC


Following the 40-minute informal meeting between Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Jiang Zemin near Moscow on 23 November, their joint statement on "Russian- Chinese Relations on the Threshold of the 21st Century" was made public, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. The nine-point declaration calls for a multi-polar world, as did--albeit in less detail--the 1997 Russian-Chinese declaration, and warns against the next century becoming an "exclusively 'American,' 'European,' or 'Asian-Pacific' century." The declaration also call for a greater role for the UN in world affairs. And while noting the "noticeable improvement in relations between the great powers after the conclusion of the Cold War," it favors "fostering conditions so that large powers do not make efforts at widening or creating new military alliances." BP


The declaration also addressed the world financial crisis, noting that in the next century ,"the globalization and regionalization of the world economy will become the most important factor in defining [the world's] condition." It calls for ensuring the "economic security of sovereign states" and the "exclusion of attempts at using currency or financial levers to impose political or economic conditions which infringe on the legitimate national interests of a particular country." The two sides also called for a political solution to the problems in Kosova, Afghanistan, and the Korean peninsula. With regard to "the situation in South Asia," the declaration said there is need to stress that the "Nuclear Non- proliferation Treaty and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty are of extreme significance." BP


After President of Kalmykia Nursan Ilyumzhinov accused the federal Finance Ministry of committing genocide against his people by withholding funds, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov has ordered the republic to return an unauthorized government transfer of 236 million rubles ($14 million), ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 November 1998). Zadornov sent a letter to the Duma and Primakov cabinet on 23 November, outlining the republic's financial violations. JAC


A 19 November statement by Oleg Sysuev, deputy chief of the presidential administration, may herald a new approach to regional policy, "Izvestiya" concluded two days later. Sysuev suggested that Moscow should dispense with its habit of concluding individual agreements with republics and oblasts. He said that already signed agreements must be implemented but that in the future, "a unitary state should have a unified approach to relations between the federal center and its subjects." The daily cited a source within the administration as saying Sysuev's comments represented only Sysuev's "personal viewpoint." But the daily concluded that Sysuev's remarks are "symptomatic of the executive branch's search for ways to prevent the disintegration of Russia." JAC


More reports about the military command's opposition to Defense Minister Igor Sergeev's advocacy of a single unified command for Russia's strategic nuclear forces have leaked to the press (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 1998). According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 21 November, First Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Mikhailov and the commanders in chief of the Air Force and Navy all oppose Sergeev's proposal and may push for Sergeev himself to be sacked. The newspaper concluded "if they are able to convince Prime Minister Primakov of the necessity of not rushing the creation of a joint command for strategic forces, then it cannot be ruled out that this decision will be followed by another regarding the minister himself." "Izvestiya" reported the previous day that officials at navy headquarters "wonder what units will be governed by admirals if the only real force of the fleet, its nuclear submarines, are subordinated to the [unified command] of the Strategic Nuclear Forces." JAC


The November issue of "Vek" characterized the deployment of six Topol-M missiles near Saratov as a "military-technical and diplomatic accomplishment." According to the journal, the armed forces have found a way to honor international agreements, such as START-II (which bans multiple-warhead missiles), "without putting too large a dent in [their] defensive capability." The single-warhead Topol-M "may be based in silos, or they may be mobile." They also allow Russia "to save 18.5 million rubles [$1.1 million] on every silo," resulting in a total savings of 3.4 billion rubles. JAC


Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov has announced that he is setting up his own political movement called Moe Otechestvo [My Fatherland ], "Kommersant- Daily" reported on 21 November. Ayatskov, who has been openly critical lately of Chernomyrdin and his leadership of the Our Home is Russia party, said he thinks that an alliance with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's Otechestvo [Fatherland] party is possible. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 19 November that Ayatskov's new movement, which would consist of governors whose terms are about to expire, would get its own deputies elected to the State Duma. JAC


Voters in Krasnodar Krai have elected a pro-communist bloc to the local assembly, filling between 38-40 of 50 seats with Communists. Also, Communist Aleksandr Burulko, director of a local brick factory, won a slot in the 22 November run-off elections for the vacant seat in the State Duma, attracting more than four times as many votes as his competitor, Interfax reported. Krasnodar Governor Nikolai Kondratenko has been outspoken in his defense of Communist Party member and Duma Deputy Albert Makashov and his anti-Semitic remarks. JAC


South African Vice President Thabo Mbeki told reporters on 23 November that his country will not purchase training aircraft from Russia. Interfax reported that South Africa's requirement that each country exporting weapons invest 80 cents of every dollar into the local South African economy presented a problem for Russia. Mbeki also met with Russian businessmen and bankers. Vneshekonombank Chairman Andrei Kostin told Mbeki that his bank will open a branch office in South Africa in 1999. Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Generalov met with his South African counterpart, Penuel Maduna, to discuss off-shore oil and gas exploration and construction of a gas pipeline linking South Africa and Mozambique. South African President Nelson Mandela is expected to visit Moscow at the end of April.JAC


Chechen parliament deputy speaker Selim Beshaev told ITAR-TASS on 23 November that the parliament has rejected President Aslan Maskhadov's proposals for restructuring the Chechen government as "too sophisticated for a small republic." The parliament suggested creating five deputy prime minister posts in place of the nine proposed by Maskhadov in September. On 20 November, Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Akhmed Zakaev warned Russian and foreign journalists in Chechnya that they risk being stripped of their accreditation if they continue to use the toponyms "Chechnya" and "Grozny" instead of "Ichkeria" and "Djokhar-kala," Interfax reported. LF


A spokesman for the power monopoly United Energy Systems has confirmed that Chechen intelligence helped thwart the planned assassination of then First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais in late 1997, Interfax reported. Senior Chechen security official Ismail Dadalaev had told Interfax earlier the same day that Chechnya informed the Russian Federal Security Service of a plan by a Chechen bandit group to kill Chubais, who at that time was spearheading efforts by the Russian government to collect tax arrears. LF


The Kazakh Supreme Court on 24 November completed its review of the verdict handed down in October by the Medeu District Court, which had found former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin guilty of participating in a meeting of an unsanctioned organization, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. The Supreme Court failed to overturn that verdict, in effect dashing Kazhegeldin's hopes of registering as a candidate in the 10 January presidential elections. Under Kazakh law, no one found guilty of an offense may run as an electoral candidate. Last week, incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev had requested that the Supreme Court review the case, saying he would welcome Kazhegeldin's participation in the poll (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 1998). LF


Samsung Deutschland GmbH has purchased a 90 percent stake in the East Kazakhstan Copper and Chemicals Plant, Interfax reported on 23 November. Shares in the plant, which produces copper and zinc concentrate, were up for sale on the Kazakh stock exchange to the tune of 524.7 million tenge ($6.3 million). According to one official from the Kazakh Department for State Property and Privatization, it was the biggest single issue of shares in the country's short history. BP


UN special envoy to Tajikistan Jan Kubis told journalists on 23 November that he hopes the departure of the Uzbek contingent from the CIS peacekeeping force will not have a negative impact on the work of those units still participating. ITAR-TASS reported on 23 November. (The units remaining in Tajikistan are from Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.) He added the UN is interested in "all components" that facilitate the implementation of the 1997 peace accord. Kubis stressed that the UN mission to Tajikistan will not resume its tasks in full until the investigation into the July murder of four UN employees is completed. BP


Polish Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairman-in-Office Bronislaw Geremek met with Georgian officials in Tbilisi on 23 November to discuss the recent local elections and the OSCE's role in trying to mediate a solution to the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, ITAR-TASS reported. Meeting with President Eduard Shevardnadze, Geremek assessed the democratization process in Georgia as "irreversible," according to Caucasus Press. Geremek said that any settlement of the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia must safeguard the interests of those ethnic minorities and also preserve Georgia's territorial integrity. He added that the OSCE is prepared to assist in monitoring the repatriation to Abkhazia's Gali Raion of Georgian displaced persons. Geremek and Shevardnadze signed a memorandum of cooperation between Georgia and the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. LF


In his weekly radio address on 23 November, Vladislav Ardzinba said that the Georgian leadership is "constantly postponing" the signing of two documents drafted by his envoy Anri Djergenia and Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze and is trying to introduce fundamental changes into those texts, ITAR-TASS reported. One of those documents addresses conditions for economic aid to Abkhazia and for the return to Abkhazia's Gali Raion of Georgian displaced persons, while the second abjures the use of force by either side. Djergenia told journalists in Tbilisi on 23 November that Sukhumi will allow only those Georgians who have not lived in Abkhazia "for a long time" to return, presumably meaning those who fled in 1992-1993. This would exclude those who returned and were forced to flee a second time in May 1998. Djergenia also rejected the creation in Abkhazia of parallel (Georgian and Abkhaz) local councils, according to Caucasus Press. LF


Addressing members of the Yeni Azerbaycan party he created six years ago as a personal power base, Heidar Aliyev warned on 21 November that the country's authorities will suppress any move by the opposition to undermine them and will never cede power, Turan reported on 23 November. In an implicit contradiction, Aliyev said that he had called on opposition leaders three times to open a dialogue with no preconditions, noting that such a dialogue is possible only if the opposition recognizes him as the country's legitimate president. Many opposition leaders refuse to do so, arguing that the results of the 11 October presidential election were falsified. Meanwhile, some opposition politicians and "thousands of readers" have pledged to join the hunger strike launched two weeks ago by editors of independent newspapers to protest libel suits brought by senior officials. The newspapers say those suits are intended to bankrupt them. LF


Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko says that President Leonid Kuchma should run as "the only candidate of the centrist forces" in the 1999 presidential polls, Interfax reported on 23 November. Addressing a congress of the pro- presidential Popular Democratic Party the previous day, Pustovoytenko said Kuchma "is capable of uniting around him all moderate political forces and of continuing the course of socially oriented, consistent economic restructuring." The premier urged the party to support Kuchma as its presidential candidate and to initiate the signing of a memorandum on uniting parties "that pursue stability and socially oriented economic reforms." JM


Ukrainian First Deputy Premier Anatoliy Holubchenko said on 23 November that Ukraine and Russia have agreed on supplies of Russian gas to Ukraine in 1999, AP reported. According to Holubchenko, Russia will deliver 62 billion cubic meters in 1999, covering most of Ukraine's gas needs. Of that amount, 32 billion cubic meters will be supplied as payment for the transit of Russian gas through Ukrainian territory en route to Western Europe. Russian gas supplies to Ukraine will cost $50 per 1,000 cubic meters. JM


The Russian daily "Segodnya" reported on 20 November that the Intelligence and Personal Security Unit, a special purpose force set up by the Belarusian Interior Ministry a few months ago, has been taken from its base in Minsk and "hastily hidden in the Belarusian woods" in Vitsebsk Oblast. Apart from dealing with terrorism, the unit's aim is uncovering contacts between state officials and senior officers in the Defense Ministry, on the one hand, and opposition representatives, on the other, according to "Segodnya," citing reports in the Belarusian independent press. The unit's commander told a "Segodnya" correspondent, however, that his force is intended to "combat terrorists and drug traffickers in marshland and woodland conditions." He stressed that the special task force has had nothing to do with "suppressing opposition mass protests or intimidating opposition leaders." JM


Amendments to the state language law that provide for language proficiency requirements for officials have passed in the first reading, BNS reported on 23 October. Under the amendments, civil servants and those who have to communicate with the public through their work must speak Estonian sufficiently well to be able to carry out their duties. The bill specifies that the government is authorized to define language proficiency levels. Those who completed secondary school with instruction in Estonian will not be required to take a test. Last year, a similar bill passed by the parliament was deemed unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court because that legislation provided for delegating to the government the authority to establish language proficiency requirements for elected officials. The court ruled that such requirements can be established only by law, not by delegating such authority to the executive. JC


Speaking on state radio on 23 November, Guntis Ulmanis called on leading political parties to resume talks on forming a majority government, BNS reported. He said that he believes a minority government is not the "correct model" for Latvia, adding that it would find it very difficult to tackle problems. Ulmanis also expressed displeasure with the pace of forming the next cabinet. Last week, Premier-designate Vilis Kristopans announced he will form a minority government composed of his Latvia's Way, the Fatherland and Freedom party, and the New Party. The People's Party, which won last month's elections, has declined Kristopans's offer of a government post without being part of the ruling coalition. JC


Also on 23 November, Ulmanis's spokeswoman, Vita Savicka, told BNS that the president does not intend to apologize to the Simon Wiesenthal Center for not mentioning the Holocaust in an article honoring Latvian Independence Day (18 November) published in a Hebrew- language daily. Savicka said the article was not aimed at expressing an opinion on the Holocaust and she stressed that the president is "not afraid to speak about [the Holocaust] and has done so repeatedly." The Simon Wiesenthal Center had issued a statement calling on Ulmanis to apologize for not mentioning in the article either the Holocaust or the involvement of Latvians in the genocide of Jews during World War II. JC


According to a poll conducted in early November by the Vilmorus agency, only 37.2 percent of Lithuanians would vote in favor of NATO membership if a referendum were held on the issue, Reuters reported. That figure represents a decrease of some five percentage points on the previous month. Some 23.5 percent of respondents would oppose such membership, while 13 percent would not vote and 26 percent were undecided. The news agency quoted analysts as saying the October figure had showed the largest support rate for NATO membership in the past year owing to the Russian crisis. The European Commission's recent decision not to recommend a start date for Lithuania's EU accession talks, however, is believed to have dampened enthusiasm for joining Western institutions. Recently, several government officials have urged a more pragmatic approach toward gaining EU entry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 17 November 1998). JC


Eugeniusz Morawski resigned his cabinet post on 23 November, saying he could not reform the Polish State Railroad (PKP) because of strong trade union opposition, Reuters reported. "Morawski said the government was being held hostage by the unions," cabinet spokesman Jaroslaw Sellin commented. Some government officials say the PKP, which currently employs 218,000 people, needs to slash 60,000 jobs and invest 3 billion zlotys ($860 million) to modernize its infrastructure. According to a tentative government plan, the PKP is slated to be privatized between 2000 and 2002 after it has been divided into a railroad network and a shipment company. Many trade unionists oppose the plan, fearing layoffs. It is estimated that losses accumulated by the PKP this year will reach 1 billion zlotys. JM


Jan Kasal, the acting chairman of the Christian Democratic Union/Czechoslovak People's Party (KDU/CSL), has rejected the possibility of forming a majority government with the ruling Social Democrats and the tacit support of the Communist Party, CTK reported on 23 November. Kasal said "this is not a cabinet the Christian Democrats would like to enter." He added that it would be "senseless to form another minority cabinet." But KDU/CSL deputy Cyril Svoboda, considered a candidate for chairman of the party, said in an interview with the daily "Zemske noviny" that he supports the idea. The KDU/CSL's strong showing in 20-21 November Senate elections has renewed speculation that it will join with another party to form a government. PB


British Defense Secretary George Robertson said in Prague on 24 November that Britain will assist the Czech military in preparing for NATO membership, AP reported. Robertson said his country has prepared a program that will focus on language instruction and training exercises. He said the Czech military has made progress in upgrading to NATO standards but still has a lot of work to do. Robertson met with Czech Defense Minister Vladimir Vetchy. PB


Milos Zeman and his Slovak counterpart, Mikulas Dzurinda, agreed on 23 November in Bratislava to a process for settling a long-standing dispute over the division of former Czechoslovak assets, AP reported. Zeman said they agreed to appoint a commission composed of six members from each country that will divide the assets, which include art works and gold, within one year. Zeman said the one-day visit to Bratislava was aimed at renewing "the Czech- Slovak friendship, which was strongly impaired by previous governments." Zeman was accompanied by Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, Finance Minister Ivo Svoboda, and Economy Minister Miroslav Gregr. PB


Janos Martyoni held talks in the Slovak capital with his Slovak counterpart, Eduard Kukan, on 24 November, TASR reported. The two signed an interministerial agreement before Martyoni met with Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda. PB


Leaders of national trade union federations complained to the ambassadors of EU member states in Budapest on 23 November that the Hungarian government does not discuss urgent labor issues with the trade unions, Hungarian media reported. "Social dialogue in Hungary is at an all-time low, and the government's plans for next year are unacceptable to both employees and pensioners," read a joint trade union statement. MSZ


Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov on 23 November entrusted Ljubco Georgievski with forming a government. The prime minister- designate told reporters that he expects to have his cabinet lineup completed by 27 November. Georgievski heads a coalition consisting of his own Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization and Vasil Tupurkovski's Democratic Alternative, which together have 62 out of the 120 seats in the parliament. Georgievski is conducting negotiations to bring Arben Xhaferi's Democratic Party of the Albanians into the coalition in order to broaden its base. The prime minister-designate is 32 years old and gives his occupation as "poet." His center-right coalition won the recent elections on a platform that stressed ending corruption and promoting economic development. One of the government's first tasks will be to approve NATO's request to use Macedonian territory as a base for its rapid-reaction force for Kosova. PM


International monitors said in a statement in Tirana on 23 November that the previous day's referendum on a new constitution "was carried out in a correct manner, for which voters and election officials should be commended." The statement added that "the political forces should now resume their dialogue and concentrate on Albania's vital problems. This could be best achieved through constructive cooperation between all parties, including the Democratic Party," which opposed the draft constitution and called for a boycott of the referendum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 November 1998). The OSCE, Council of Europe, and European Parliament provided the monitors. In Vienna, Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel, speaking on behalf of the EU, said the vote was evidence of Albania's "democratic maturity." PM


Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha told a rally in Tirana on 23 November that the referendum is invalid because, he claimed, only 38 percent of the electorate cast their ballots. He also urged "freedom fighters" to defy the Socialist-led government. Berisha said: "Let's get rid of the filthy animals. Whoever wants to violate our votes will have to pass over our bodies." Berisha often uses fiery rhetoric that his opponents say amounts to an incitement to violence. For the first time, speakers and demonstrators openly called for OSCE Ambassador to Albania Daan Everts to leave the country, dpa reported. Everts received an anonymous death threat shortly before the referendum. PM


Fighters belonging to the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) freed a Serbian police officer near Podujeva on 24 November. He told reporters that the guerrillas "did not harass me. Probably they had mixed me up with someone else.... I want to go home as soon as possible. The war is no good for anyone and it has to stop," he added. U.S. diplomat Shaun Byrnes and UCK spokesman Adem Demaci helped arrange the officer's release, AP reported. On 18 November, the UCK captured the policeman and two ethnic Albanian civilians, whom the guerrillas regard as pro-Serbian collaborators. It is unclear what happened to the two civilians. PM


Ethnic Albanian spokesmen said in Prishtina on 23 November that recent Serbian proposals on the political future of Kosova amount to a rejection of the U.S. draft on the subject and are an "exercise aimed at wasting time" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 November 1998). In the federal Yugoslav capital, a spokesman for U.S. envoy Chris Hill said that Hill's talks with Serbian President Milan Milutinovic are part of a "process" aimed at securing a settlement before spring, when fighting is widely expected to resume. The Kosovars want at the very least broad autonomy on a provincial level as a prelude to a referendum on independence in two to three years' time. The Serbs seek to dilute potential ethnic Albanian political power by stressing autonomy on a local level and ensuring an equal voice for all the province's ethnic groups as part of a permanent settlement. PM


Predrag Popovic and Rifat Rastoder, who are deputy speakers of the Montenegrin parliament, told visiting representatives of European local governments in Podgorica on 23 November that the "regime of [Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic bears sole responsibility for the crisis in relations" between Montenegro and Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 November 1998). The two legislators added that Milosevic is blocking the functioning of federal bodies in response to the ongoing process of democratization and decentralization in Montenegro, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM


Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos told his Croatian counterpart Mate Granic in Athens on 24 November that a proposed Adriatic highway "is a project of immense importance for Greece. We are making efforts to include it in trans-European networks." Another unnamed Greek official said that Athens will seek EU funding for the project, Reuters reported. The road would link Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, and Italy and facilitate travel and shipping. The previous day, President Franjo Tudjman told his Greek hosts that "Croatian culture and history are based on those of Greece, not only on Greek classical civilization but also on the struggle of the Greek people in the last century for freedom," "Jutarnji list" reported. PM


Liberal Party leader Vlado Gotovac, in his capacity as spokesman for a coalition of six opposition parties, said in Zagreb on 23 November that Croats should respond with "civil disobedience" when confronted with "activities incompatible with morality" at their work place. His remarks come several weeks after two bank clerks revealed that Tudjman's wife has several hundred thousand dollars in undeclared accounts. Gotovac added that the opposition expresses solidarity with journalists who seek to carry out their professional responsibilities but are hindered by the government and ruling party from doing so, "Vjesnik" reported. PM


A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry told the Hina news agency in Zagreb on 23 November that Croatian representatives will not accept Slovenia's invitation to observe NATO maneuvers in Slovenia on 25 November. The spokesman said that Croatia thanks Slovenia for the invitation but finds the date "not appropriate." Observers suggested that Zagreb had wanted a formal invitation from the Atlantic alliance to attend the entire exercise and not just a one-day segment that is also open to the public. PM


British Foreign Minister Robin Cook said in Ljubljana on 23 November that "Slovenia is entitled to its place in the front row of countries that are looking at the European Union." He added that recent EU criticism of Slovenia was "aimed at helping [it] find solutions" to several problems. Cook also said that "Slovenia must be invited" if NATO decides at its 50th anniversary conference in Washington in 1999 to ask countries to participate in a second round of eastward expansion. The minister added that he is "sorry" that Ljubljana was not included in the first round. PM


Deputy Prime Minister Valentin Dolganiuc flew to Bucharest on 23 November in an effort to secure emergency electricity supplies for his country, Reuters reported. Dolganiuc is reported to be offering Romania shares in companies soon to be privatized in exchange for electricity. Moldova produces less than one-third of the electricity it needs and relies on Ukraine, Russia, and Romania for the rest. Rompres reported that Ukraine recently reduced its energy supplies to Moldova by some 50 percent. As a result, residents of Chisinau are experiencing brownouts for much of the day. PB


Ivan Kostov said that the main elements of the government's reform plan will be completed by July 1999, BTA reported on 22 November. Kostov said on state radio that reforms in the tax, administration, and social service spheres will be completed by that date. He added that the liquidation of insolvent companies should be completed by that time as well. The following day, the government began liquidating a debt-ridden mine in the southeastern town of Zlatograd, where workers have been striking in an effort to gain a pay raise (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 1998). PB


The Bulgarian government has joined an EU ban on Yugoslav airlines, BTA reported. Transport Minister Wilhelm Kraus said the move is in line with Sofia's obligations as an associate member country of the EU. It is unclear when the ban will begin. In other news, Standard & Poor's gave Bulgaria a B+ credit rating, the Finance Ministry reported. The agency said the improved macroeconomic and financial stability of Bulgaria are the reasons for the positive rating. PB


by Liz Fuller

CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii recently unveiled his blueprint for reversing "seven years of disintegration" and breathing new life into the moribund Commonwealth of Independent States. The blueprint offers a framework for mutually beneficial economic cooperation among CIS members. Somewhat inauspiciously, perhaps, it was published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on Friday, 13 November.

Over the past 10 days, Berezovskii has been touring the CIS states in an attempt to persuade their presidents to endorse his plan. To date, the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and Tajikistan have expressed cautious support, while their Azerbaijani and Turkmen counterparts have proven more skeptical. A discussion of Berezovskii's proposals is on the agenda for the CIS summit scheduled for 11-12 December, Russian President Boris Yeltsin's health permitting.

Berezovskii was appointed executive secretary of the CIS in April 1998, when strains within the commonwealth had reached such magnitude that many observers were predicting its imminent demise. Those tensions derived partly from the CIS's failure to preserve a single, viable economic space composed of the former Soviet republics and partly from President Yeltsin's warning at the March 1997 CIS summit that Russia is prepared to resort to subversion and sabotage to weaken the Soviet successor states and keep them within its sphere of influence.

In the "Nezavisimaya gazeta" article, Berezovskii expresses concern that widespread disenchantment with the CIS could evolve into anti-Russian sentiment within the non-Russian successor states and give rise to centrifugal tendencies within Russia itself. Berezovskii emphasizes that resurrecting the USSR is impossible, given that the union was geared toward a planned, not a market economy. At the same time, he argues that voluntary economic integration is in the interest of all CIS states, since it would expedite their integration into the global economy. But given that the primary reason for the demise of the USSR was the failure of its Communist Party to address the grievances of the non-Russian republics, any attempt to rebuild the political foundations of the CIS should be undertaken with extreme caution so as not to impinge on the desire of newly independent states to protect their sovereignty and independence, Berezovskii comments.

As the first step toward reversing centrifugal economic trends, Berezovskii proposes creating one or several CIS free trade zones. (Among the hundreds of CIS agreements signed but not implemented over the past seven years is one, signed in April 1994, on setting up such a zone. That accord, however, fails to provide either clear guidelines or a timetable for doing so.) The Special CIS Inter-State Forum, created after the CIS Chisinau summit in October 1997, also considered the possibility of free trade zones. It used the April 1994 agreement as a springboard but failed to make recommendations on fundamental issues, including whether such zones should encompass only the movement of goods or also the service sector.

In this context, Berezovskii warns that "palliative measures" are dangerous. A flawed blueprint for economic integration might temporarily create the illusion that the CIS is functioning effectively as an economic organization, but the inevitable disillusionment when that proved not to be the case would be so profound as to pose a real threat to the Commonwealth's survival.

Berezovskii distinguishes two approaches to economic integration: the "soft" approach, as epitomized by the European Free Trade Association (created by countries that did not meet the criteria for entry into the EU), and the "hard" approach, as exemplified by the EU, in which economic integration paves the way for the creation of supranational structures, both economic and political. (One CIS proponent of the "hard" approach is the Kazakh economist Nigmatzhan Isingarin, who recently included in a list of "urgent priorities" for CIS integration the "gradual coordination [sblizhenie] of foreign policy positions.")

Berezovskii considers the "soft" approach more appropriate for the CIS and proposes a CIS free trade zone as a first step in that direction. But he also predicts that the "soft" approach may acquire a momentum of its own: reversing the decline in intra-CIS trade would serve as the incentive for a CIS Customs Union, which, in turn, would engender moves to coordinate monetary policy and create a single market. Thus the "soft" approach may eventually lead to its members' accepting the "hard" approach. In this context, Berezovskii cites the fusion of the European Free Trade Association into the European Community. The (possibly fatal) difference between the EU and Berezovskii's blueprint is, of course, that the EU was not built from the remnants of a former empire.

Moreover, Berezovskii's envisaged transition from a "soft" to a "hard" approach toward economic integration may cause an acute allergic reaction among those non-Russians who are inclined to see ulterior neo-imperialist motives behind any Russian advocacy of supra-national structures, thus jeopardizing the free trade zone from the outset. Berezovskii himself concedes that "introducing supra-national elements into the CIS at the present stage would not correspond to the strategic interests of its members." But he adds that "without a certain degree of coordination, it will be impossible to proceed further than creating a free trade zone."

Berezovskii's success in selling his blueprint to the skeptics among the CIS presidents will depend on his ability to persuade them that the document is not intended ultimately to undermine their sovereignty and that the momentum can be halted before economic integration expands into the political sphere.