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Tatar-Bashkir Report: October 16, 2002

16 October 2002
Tatar Parliamentary Speaker Visits Strasbourg
Tatarstan State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin participated in a 15-16 October meeting of the Culture and Education Committee under the Council of Europe's Congress of Regional and Local Authorities of Europe, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 16 October. The committee was considering programs in the areas of violence-prevention and cultural heritage, among other things. Mukhametshin on 15 October met with senior congress representatives to discuss an upcoming conference on the constitutional status of Russia's and Europe's regions, to be held in Kazan in mid-2003. The same day, he also met Janni Bukikio, secretary of the Venice Commission that is monitoring whether the Tatar Constitution adopted earlier this year conforms to Council of Europe legislation, which has been ratified by Russia. Bukikio said the commission is ready to present its report on the Constitution during its plenary session in December. On 16 October, Mukhametshin was expected to meet with the Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer.

Tatenergo Proposes Amendments To Industry Draft Law...
Ilshat Ferdiev, general director of Tatenergo, told a press conference on 14 October that his company has suggested a number of changes to a draft federal law on the electricity sector that is currently being discussed by the Russian State Duma, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 15 October. The recommendations have been directed to the republican energy commission and include a proposal for hiking rates while introducing exemptions for low-income families. Those breaks would apply to families whose electricity bills represent at least 22 percent of their incomes, according to Ferdiev. Tatenergo also proposes that the new law put an end to the practice of cross-subsidizing, which reduces the electricity burden on households at the expense of industrial customers. Ferdiev said the Russian government has long supported eliminating cross subsidies, which he said "will in fact be abolished."

...In The Face Of Mounting Debts To Gazprom, Late Payments From Customers
Tatenergo Financial Director Goelsine Minnekhanova told the same press conference on 14 October that her company owes Russian gas monopoly Gazprom 4.2 billion rubles ($133 million), RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Meanwhile, Tatenergo customers -- primarily agricultural entities and defense- industry plants -- owe the company some 4.3 billion rubles.

Government Agency Pledges Greater Control Over Tenders
The new general director of a republican agency for government contracts, investment activities, and regional affairs (Goszakaz) told a press conference on 15 October that 67.7 percent of state tenders so far in 2002 involved only one bidder, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Government contracts worth an estimated 10.987 billion rubles ($347 million) were concluded, while only about 2.378 million rubles' worth of contracts were signed following public tenders. General Director Yakov Geller said his agency will impose more control over the obligatory publication of information about state tenders to prevent "single-contestant competitions," which were uncovered in the republican ministries of Education, Health, Communications, and Culture.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Constitutional Assembly Goes To Work On Constitutional Reforms...
The Bashkir Constitutional Assembly began implementing a proposal by Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov on transferring some presidential powers to the speaker of parliament (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 11, 14, and 15 October 2002), Bashkir State Assembly Chairman Konstantin Tolkachev told Interfax-Eurasia on 15 October. "Work on the introduction of corresponding amendments to the republican Constitution that are harmonized with federal law will be complex, but it will not exceed our powers," Tolkachev said. He said he believes the work will be completed by the end of December. Tolkachev added that the draft constitution proposed the previous week will be used as a starting point, since "the main concept remains unchanged." Some of the main goals entail shifting certain powers from the executive to the legislative branch. The head of the supreme body of the executive branch --- the Bashkir government --- will be elected by popular vote, while the State Assembly chairman will be elected by the members of parliament. "The parliamentary republic will have [an] incomplete form in Bashkortostan, since the parliament will not be able to appoint the prime minister," Tolkachev added. "The plan is to increase the parliament's power in controlling the implementation of the budge law. The State Assembly will also appoint deputy prime ministers and deputy ministers, a power that currently belongs to the president."

...Prompting Strong Reaction Among Republic
Bashkir media began to prepare public opinion for the idea of Bashkortostan's transformation to a parliamentary republic, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 15 October. Several official media outlets the same day published interviews with the head of the Bashkir Lawyers Union and Bashkir Constitutional Assembly member Refyiq Gyibedetov in which he supported reform. He called it an opportune moment for Bashkortostan to become a parliamentary republic. Bashkir nationalist groups, however, have expressed some opposition to the initiative. Leaders of the Ural-Bashqort People's Center said the move would mark a reversal of republican achievements and a decrease in its status and authority. Heads of the Bashkir cultural group Aqtirme called the move an ill-considered step: "After we fought great difficulties for our statehood and managed to establish a presidency in the republic, something we have been very proud of, we now have to recede." The group added, "We are ready to elect our president for another term."

Agreement With Swiss Air-Traffic Controllers Eludes Bashkir Airlines
Elmar Giemulla, a lawyer representing Bashkir Airlines and relatives of 12 crew members of the Tu-154 that collided with a DHL Boeing 757 jet on 1 July in southern Germany, said on 15 October that attempts to reach an amicable agreement with Swiss Skyguide air-traffic control have not succeeded, Interfax-Eurasia reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 July 2002). Giemulla and Associates filed a claim in late September demanding financial and moral compensation from Skyguide connected with the loss of the Tu-154. Skyguide lawyers refused to negotiate the issue or to pay the damage, Giemulla said, arguing that the German government should cover the damage since the collision occurred in its skies. Giemulla said his law firm plans to appeal to a New York court this month against Skyguide and U.S-based DHL. He warned that financial claims "will now significantly increase." Previously, lawyers demanded that Skyguide and DHL pay $1 million in compensation for each crewmember and $29 million for the jet.

Tatar Organizations Mark Anniversary Of Kazan Conquest
Tatar nationalist groups in Bashkortostan on 15 October commemorated Kazan defenders who died during Ivan the Terrible's conquest of Kazan in 1552, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. While the date has not been marked regularly in Bashkortostan, this year Tatar nationalist leaders devoted a great deal of attention to its organization. The event was attended by Tatar historians, the correspondent said.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova