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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 19, 01-01-29

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 5, No. 19, 29 January 2001


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN LEFTIST PARTIES CALL FOR JAILED BUSINESSMAN'S RELEASE
  • [02] ARMENIAN ENERGY MINISTER REPORTS PROGRESS IN RUSSIAN DEBT TALKS
  • [03] ARMENIA RESUMES RETRANSMISSION OF RUSSIAN TELEVISION
  • [04] ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS DISCUSS KAKABAKH CONFLICT
  • [05] AZERBAIJANI WAR INVALIDS CONTINUE HUNGER-STRIKE
  • [06] GEORGIA INVITES PACE OFFICIALS TO INSPECT PANKISI GORGE
  • [07] TURKEY FUNDS RECONSTRUCTION OF GEORGIAN MILITARY AIRFIELD
  • [08] FORMER KAZAKH CAPITAL TO SET UP ANTI-TERRORIST FORCE
  • [09] JOURNALISTS CRITICIZE KAZAKHSTAN'S NEW DRAFT MEDIA LAW
  • [10] KAZAKHSTAN'S SLAVS AT ODDS OVER NEW ETHNIC PARTY
  • [11] KYRGYZ OFFICIALS SEEK TO JUSTIFY KULOV VERDICT...
  • [12] ...WITH ONE EXCEPTION
  • [13] TURKMENISTAN TO STRENGTHEN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMITTEE
  • [14] TURKMENISTAN ENVISAGES CONTINUED GDP GROWTH

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [15] SOUTHWESTERN SERBIA REMAINS TENSE
  • [16] ETHNIC ALBANIANS CALL FOR DEMILITARIZATION...
  • [17] ...WHILE SERBIA PREFERS 'OTHER SOLUTIONS'...
  • [18] ...WITH INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT
  • [19] CROATIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH KOSTUNICA
  • [20] YUGOSLAV GOVERNMENT OPENS PODGORICA OFFICE
  • [21] MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT CALLS ON EU TO JOIN SERBIAN TALKS
  • [22] MESSAGE FROM ORGANIZED CRIME TO SERBIA'S LEADERS?
  • [23] SERBIAN POLICE, FANS INJURED IN BELGRADE BRAWL
  • [24] MYSTERY SURROUNDS MACEDONIAN-ALBANIAN TERRORIST GROUP
  • [25] CROATIAN-BOSNIAN RAIL LINK RESTORED
  • [26] PETRITSCH APPEALS TO BOSNIAN SERB LEADERS
  • [27] SLOVENIAN POLL: DRNOVSEK HAS STRONG SUPPORT
  • [28] ROMANIAN PREMIER SATISFIED WITH TALKS IN BRUSSELS, STRASBOURG
  • [29] BULGARIAN, ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET
  • [30] MOLDOVA RECORDS ECONOMIC GROWTH FOR SECOND TIME IN 10 YEARS
  • [31] BULGARIAN PRESIDENT DISCUSSES ENLARGEMENT IN DAVOS
  • [32] MOSCOW SEEKS TO EASE VISA RESTRICTIONS WITH BULGARIA
  • [33] BULGARIAN UNEMPLOYMENT RISES IN DECEMBER

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [34] THE EU AS A MODEL FOR RUSSIA'S REGIONS

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN LEFTIST PARTIES CALL FOR JAILED BUSINESSMAN'S RELEASE

    Representatives of the Armenian Communist Party and the Union of Rightist Forces appealed last week to Armenian National Security Minister Karlos Petrosian to release entrepreneur Arkadii Vartanian, but Petrosian replied that it is too early to do so, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Vartanian was taken into custody on 30 October following an unsanctioned march by his supporters to the presidential palace and later charged with calling for the overthrow of the Armenian leadership. He was transferred on 22 January from a remand prison to a Yerevan hospital after his wife Elena had said he was in danger of suffering a stroke. Vartanian's lawyer, Samvel Jaghinian, said on 26 January that his client's condition remains grave and he is unable to participate in the ongoing investigation, according to Noyan Tapan. LF

    [02] ARMENIAN ENERGY MINISTER REPORTS PROGRESS IN RUSSIAN DEBT TALKS

    Karen Galustian told journalists in Yerevan late on 24 January that during his recent talks in Moscow considerable progress was made on restructuring Armenia's $25.2 million debt to Moscow for energy resources, and that he hopes to reach a final agreement on doing so within 10 days, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He denied press reports that Russia is refusing to grant a reprieve on those payments in order to pressure Yerevan. Armenia owes $9.2 million to Gazprom and a further $16 million for fuel supplies for the Medzamor nuclear power station. Galustian said the Armenian leadership has offered Russia a 50 percent stake in the Hrazdan thermal power station in payment for that latter debt. Armenia's total debt to Moscow is $118 million, of which $18 million is due to be repaid this year, but the 2001 budget contains no such expenditures. LF

    [03] ARMENIA RESUMES RETRANSMISSION OF RUSSIAN TELEVISION

    Armenia resumed retransmission of the Russian state-run TV station ORT on 28 January, but currently those broadcasts can be viewed only in Yerevan and neighboring districts, ITAR-TASS reported. Rebroadcasting was suspended one week earlier because of a financial dispute (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 22 January 2001). LF

    [04] ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS DISCUSS KAKABAKH CONFLICT

    Robert Kocharian and Heidar Aliev had a 90 minute one-to-one discussion in Paris on 26 January about possible approaches to resolving the Karabakh conflict, Western agencies reported. They then continued talks on that issue for three hours with French President Jacques Chirac. France, together with Russia and the U.S., is one of the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group that is trying to mediate a solution to the conflict. ITAR- TASS quoted Aliev as characterizing the talks as "difficult," but "useful" in that they contribute to greater understanding between the two sides. Kocharian told journalists that the meeting was the first time that the problem had been discussed "so thoroughly and broadly." Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said on Armenian National Television on 27 January that the meeting may prove to be a "cornerstone event in the search for a compromise," according to ITAR-TASS. He added that "we may expect some progress" this year towards a solution of the conflict, adding that he has no doubts that representatives of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic will join the peace talks and sign any final settlement. LF

    [05] AZERBAIJANI WAR INVALIDS CONTINUE HUNGER-STRIKE

    Some 500 veterans of the Karabakh war entered the sixth day of their hunger- strike on 27 January to demand a threefold increase in their pensions and invalid benefits, Turan reported. Etimad Asadov, who heads the Society of Veterans of the Karabakh War, told Turan that the strikers are waiting for President Aliev to issue a statement in response to their demands. A senior Azerbaijani official said last week that those demands will not be met as the strike has political connotations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January 2001). LF

    [06] GEORGIA INVITES PACE OFFICIALS TO INSPECT PANKISI GORGE

    Revaz Adamia, who headed the Georgian delegation to last week's session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, has invited that body to send representatives to Georgia to investigate Russian claims that the estimated 7,500 Chechen refugees currently living in the Pankisi gorge in northeastern Georgia include armed Chechen fighters, Caucasus Press reported on 27 January. LF

    [07] TURKEY FUNDS RECONSTRUCTION OF GEORGIAN MILITARY AIRFIELD

    The formal reopening took place on 28 January of a former Soviet military airbase east of Tbilisi, which has been reconstructed and modernized thanks to a $1.27 million Turkish grant, Reuters reported. Speaking at the ceremony, Georgian parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania said that Georgian- Turkish relations have "special significance." He added that "military cooperation with Turkey is the main possibility for us to approach NATO military standards," which he termed one of Georgia's key priorities. LF

    [08] FORMER KAZAKH CAPITAL TO SET UP ANTI-TERRORIST FORCE

    The Almaty municipal authorities have decided to create a special anti- terrorist force to investigate the increasing number of anonymous threats to blow up public buildings or apartment blocks, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 January. Almaty police received over 90 such telephone threats last year and a further 20 so far this month. LF

    [09] JOURNALISTS CRITICIZE KAZAKHSTAN'S NEW DRAFT MEDIA LAW

    Several independent journalists and NGOs that represent journalists interests addressed an open letter to Kazakhstan's parliament on 26 January demanding that the new draft media law be sent back to the cabinet for amendments, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. They object specifically to articles of the draft law that introduce limitations on transmissions by foreign media and stricter controls on publishing Internet newspapers. LF

    [10] KAZAKHSTAN'S SLAVS AT ODDS OVER NEW ETHNIC PARTY

    Yurii Buniakov, who heads one of the organizations that represent Kazakhstan's Russian population, has criticized plans by a rival Russian group to create a political party that will represent the Russian community in Kazakhstan, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 26 January. Buniakov said the planned "Russian Party" may exacerbate tensions both between Russians and other ethnic groups, and within the Russian community. LF

    [11] KYRGYZ OFFICIALS SEEK TO JUSTIFY KULOV VERDICT...

    The office of the Prosecutor-General issued a statement on 26 January denying that the seven-year jail sentence handed down four days earlier on opposition Ar-Namys Party leader and former Vice President Feliks Kulov was politically motivated, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The U.S. State Department and the EU had both expressed concern over the reopening of the case against Kulov two months after his acquittal last August. The statement by the Prosecutor-General's office said that while Kulov was serving as National Security Minister in 1997 two of his aides bought telephone-bugging equipment from Moscow that subsequently disappeared, and that in 1998 Kulov gave orders to bug the telephones of unnamed Kyrgyz officials. Deputy National Security Service Director Boris Poluektov told RFE/RL on 26 January that further criminal charges will be brought against Kulov later this week. He added that international organizations are not fully informed of the details of the case against Kulov as the court hearings were held behind closed doors for reasons of national security. LF

    [12] ...WITH ONE EXCEPTION

    Judge Nurlan Ashymbekov, who acquitted Kulov on charges of abuse of his official position last August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2000), told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 26 January that he still considers Kulov's guilt not proven, and that his acquittal was just. LF

    [13] TURKMENISTAN TO STRENGTHEN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMITTEE

    President Saparmurat Niyazov announced in Ashgabat on 26 January that the National Security Committee will be enlarged this year by some 1,000 personnel at the expense of the armed forces, Interior Ministry, and border guards, Russian agencies reported. Niyazov said also called on the National Security Committee to draft clear procedures for the registration of foreign visitors, noting that every state has the right to bar "unwelcome guests" and intercept pornography and unacceptable religious propaganda. LF

    [14] TURKMENISTAN ENVISAGES CONTINUED GDP GROWTH

    Turkmenistan's GDP increased by 17.6 percent last year compared with 1999 and is set to grow by a further 16 percent in 2001, Interfax reported on 26 January, quoting the National Institute for Government Statistics and Information. Consumer goods production is expected to increase by 18 percent this year, it reported. LF

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [15] SOUTHWESTERN SERBIA REMAINS TENSE

    A series of clashes in the Gornja Susaja area of the Presevo region left four soldiers and three guerrillas of the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac (UCPMB) injured over the weekend of 26-28 January. An additional Serbian soldier later died of wounds he received on 26 January. Each side blamed the other for starting the fighting. PM

    [16] ETHNIC ALBANIANS CALL FOR DEMILITARIZATION...

    UCPMB spokesman Tahir Dalipi told Reuters on 28 January that the Yugoslav forces are shelling the area "from all sides" and that the civilian population is fleeing to escape. Two days earlier, Presevo Mayor Riza Halimi said that the massing of Serbian forces in the area is serving to drive the ethnic Albanian civilian population into the arms of the UCPMB (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 2000). Halimi appealed to the authorities in Belgrade to open urgent talks with the insurgents in order to demilitarize the region and end the political polarization of the civilian population, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In Dobrosin, some 300 UCPMB fighters and 1,000 civilians marked the first anniversary of the guerrillas' appearance in public. Chief of Staff Shefket Musliu told the crowd that "the people of this land do not ask for anything more than freedom but will never accept slavery." PM

    [17] ...WHILE SERBIA PREFERS 'OTHER SOLUTIONS'...

    General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who heads the Yugoslav army's General Staff, said in Medvedja that diplomacy with the support of the international community must take the lead in ending the tensions, "Danas" reported on 29 January. But Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said that "everything has its limits and some things can not and will not be allowed," Reuters reported on 28 January. He called for a "halt to the provocations." Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic said the previous day that the problem must be solved quickly "either by diplomatic means or by using the force of the police and the army," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He dismissed ethnic Albanian calls for demilitarization, saying "there's no need for that." PM

    [18] ...WITH INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT

    Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic issued a statement in Belgrade on 28 January in which he called for an "urgent meeting" of the UN Security Council to make "an immediate and strong condemnation of terrorist attacks, " AP reported. He also demanded "punishment for the culprits." Belgrade wants a revision of the Kumanovo agreements that ended the 1999 Kosova conflict to enable its forces to return to the narrow demilitarized zone along southwestern Serbia's border with Kosova. The former regime of President Slobodan Milosevic also appealed frequently to the UN for changes in the Kumanovo agreements, usually to permit Serbian forces to return to Kosova. Speaking in Davos on 29 January, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica again called for reducing the size of the five-kilometer-wide demilitarized zone. He added that Belgrade is stepping up its diplomatic activities in the face of a worsening security situation in the Presevo region, RFE/RL reported. PM

    [19] CROATIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH KOSTUNICA

    Croatian President Stipe Mesic met with Kostunica in Davos on 28 January and agreed to raise the level of relations to the ambassadorial level, "Jutarnji list" reported. Mesic stressed that there will be no "deals" on exchanges of populations or territories, because that would only lead to a new war. Mesic previously called on Serbs to "go through a catharsis" of the emotions that led to Milosevic's rise to power and four wars (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2000). In related news, the Croatian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 27 January in which it said that the appointment of former General Momcilo Perisic as Serbian deputy prime minister will not help bilateral relations. A Croatian court previously sentenced Perisic to 20 years imprisonment for his role in the shelling of Zadar in 1991. PM

    [20] YUGOSLAV GOVERNMENT OPENS PODGORICA OFFICE

    The federal government is slated to open an office in the Montenegrin capital on 29 January in order to "bring the federation closer to the citizens of Montenegro," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Prime Minister Zoran Zizic, who himself is Montenegrin, added that an unspecified part of the federal government's activities will also be moved to Montenegro. PM

    [21] MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT CALLS ON EU TO JOIN SERBIAN TALKS

    President Milo Djukanovic told the British ambassador in Podgorica on 26 January that representatives of the EU and Council of Europe should take part in any talks between Belgrade and Podgorica on the future of their political relations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2001, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 January 2001). Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic told the Podgorica daily "Vijesti" that if Montenegro remains adamant that the two states must deal with each other only as independent, internationally recognized actors, then the only thing left to negotiate is a peaceful separation and the nature of subsequent relations. PM

    [22] MESSAGE FROM ORGANIZED CRIME TO SERBIA'S LEADERS?

    An unidentified masked gunman shot and injured the driver of Serbian state security chief Goran Petrovic in Belgrade on 28 January. Djindjic called the attack an attempt by organized crime to intimidate the government. He stressed that "those whose interests are affected [by the government's planned crackdown on crime] will have to deal with the fact that Serbia is becoming a state based on the rule of law," Reuters reported. PM

    [23] SERBIAN POLICE, FANS INJURED IN BELGRADE BRAWL

    Some 20 police and three fans were injured in Belgrade during the night of 27 January when 300 supporters of Red Star's basketball team went on a rampage. The fans were angry over not being able to secure tickets for a game with arch-rival Partizan. PM

    [24] MYSTERY SURROUNDS MACEDONIAN-ALBANIAN TERRORIST GROUP

    Unknown persons fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a train on the Skopje- Kicevo line on 26 January. No one was injured. An shadowy group calling itself the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK) sent a fax from Germany to various media outlets in which it claimed responsibility for a recent armed attack on a police station (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 2001). Former state security chief Aleksa Stamenkovski told "Dnevnik" that he knew of the group's existence one year ago. The current Ministry of the Interior staid in a statement, however, that the fax is a hoax and that the group does not exist, MIC news service reported. Ethnic Albanian political leader Arben Xhaferi told "Dnevnik" that he doubts that such a group exists. He added that "Albanian interests can be attained only through political work" and not by violence. PM

    [25] CROATIAN-BOSNIAN RAIL LINK RESTORED

    The freight rail line linking Zagreb with Knin and the Adriatic cities of Zadar, Sibenik, and Split via Bosnia's Una Valley was reopened on 26 January after a break of nine and a half years. Both republics hope that the return of the railway will help boost economic activity. Bosnian officials also hope that it will lead to the repopulation of deserted areas. Passenger traffic will resume in the summer. PM

    [26] PETRITSCH APPEALS TO BOSNIAN SERB LEADERS

    The international community's high representative to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Wolfgang Petritsch, said in Banja Luka on 27 Saturday that there is no place in the Republika Srpska's government for individuals indicted either publicly or secretly by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. Petritsch stressed that he hopes that Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic will work closely with the court, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

    [27] SLOVENIAN POLL: DRNOVSEK HAS STRONG SUPPORT

    Some 64.6 percent of respondents approve of the performance of the new government headed by veteran Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek, "Dnevnik" reported on 29 January. Some 24.9 percent are opposed, while the rest do not know or have no opinion. Some 46.9 percent of the respondents nonetheless feel that Drnovsek went "too far" in recently sacking large numbers of political appointees from the previous, conservative government of Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk. (Last July, some 62.1 percent of respondents said that Bajuk went "too far" in dismissing political appointees of Drnovsek's last government.) PM

    [28] ROMANIAN PREMIER SATISFIED WITH TALKS IN BRUSSELS, STRASBOURG

    Adrian Nastase said in Bucharest that his message that Romania is taking steps to increase the speed of integration into NATO and the EU was well received in both Brussels and Strasbourg, Rompres reported on 26 January. Nastase, speaking upon his return from a visit with officials at the NATO and EU headquarters, said he noticed a "change of temperature, of atmosphere," during a meeting with EU enlargement commissioner Guenter Verheugen in Strasbourg. Nastase said that both Verheugen and EU Commission head Roman Prodi emphasized that "Romania is a particularly important country for the and that [Brussels] wants Romania to join the EU." PB

    [29] BULGARIAN, ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET

    Boyko Noev and his Romanian counterpart, Ioan Pascu, discussed cooperation measures at a meeting in Ruse on 26 January, BTA reported. Noev said a joint military exercise has been scheduled later this year to which Greece, Hungary, and Turkey will be invited to send troops. He added that two new agreements on military transportation and cooperation between the two countries' air forces are being prepared. Pascu said after the meeting that Bulgaria and Romania can achieve more in the process of NATO integration if they work together. PB

    [30] MOLDOVA RECORDS ECONOMIC GROWTH FOR SECOND TIME IN 10 YEARS

    Moldova recorded economic growth of 1.9 percent in 2000, according to preliminary data from the Department of Statistical Analyses and Sociology, Basa-Press reported 27 January. Boosted mainly by rising industrial output, services, and import revenues, this is reportedly the first growth in the gross domestic product in Moldova since 1997, when it rose 1.6 percent. DW

    [31] BULGARIAN PRESIDENT DISCUSSES ENLARGEMENT IN DAVOS

    Petar Stoyanov met on 26 January with EU enlargement commissioner Guenter Verheugen at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Bulgarian Radio reported. Stoyanov discussed eastern expansion of the EU with Verheugen, particularly Stoyanov's idea that political membership be granted to aspiring members before full membership. Stoyanov's proposal would mean that Bulgaria would be allowed to have deputies in the European parliament by 2004, before it is likely to have fulfilled the economic criteria and granted full membership. Stoyanov reiterated Sofia's seriousness in implementing recommendations made to Bulgaria by the EU Commission, including those on integration of Roma, improving the judicial system, and stepping up the fight against crime. PB

    [32] MOSCOW SEEKS TO EASE VISA RESTRICTIONS WITH BULGARIA

    Vladimir Titov, the Russian ambassador to Bulgaria, said on 26 January that Moscow is interested in easing the visa regimes with Bulgaria, BTA reported. Titov, speaking at a roundtable in the Black Sea resort of Varna, said that although Russia "did not initiate the introduction of visas but since they are a fact, we should look for a solution." Earlier last week, Russia rejected a proposal from Sofia on establishing a readmission agreement. Titov said the visa regulations hamper bilateral contacts mostly in the area of tourism and family visits. He said there are 25,000 Russians living in Bulgaria and some 18,000 Bulgarians living in Russia. PB

    [33] BULGARIAN UNEMPLOYMENT RISES IN DECEMBER

    The National Employment Service reported on 26 January that official unemployment in the country in December was 17.86 percent, a slight increase over the previous month, BTA reported. Unemployment was lowest in Sofia, with some 4.47 percent of the workforce jobless, and highest in Turgovishte, where the rate was some 39.94 percent. PB

    [C] END NOTE

    [34] THE EU AS A MODEL FOR RUSSIA'S REGIONS

    By Paul Goble

    A Russian Foreign Ministry official has suggested that the regional policies of the European Union may serve as a useful model for Moscow's management of the foreign ties of the regions and republics that form the Russian Federation.

    Valerii Orlov, deputy director of the ministry's department for relations with the federation subjects, writes in the current issue of Moscow's "International Affairs" that such a model could help bring some order into what has been the explosive growth in ties between Russia's regions and regions and central governments in other countries.

    Moreover, Orlov suggests that model provides the Russian federal government with a kind of veto power over the foreign policy actions of the regions, a control he says Moscow needs to ensure that both the central government and regional leaders speak with a common voice and approach all issues from the same standpoint.

    As Orlov notes, the "degree of latitude" that federation subjects now enjoy in working with foreign countries would have been unthinkable only seven or eight years ago. Eighty-two of the subjects of the federation now maintain ties with various government entities in 77 countries. Of these, 30 Russian regions and republics are actively involved in developing such ties on an almost daily basis, he said. And ever more of them are forging ties -- not with immediate neighbors -- but with countries farther afield.

    The most active regions, according to Orlov, are those on the periphery of the Russian Federation whose geographic location gives them genuine advantages in trade and other kinds of contacts. And together with regions in the interior of the country, regional governments along Russia's borders have signed more than 2,000 agreements with foreign groups of various kinds.

    Moscow has had to take belated measures to counter this situation, Orlov points out. The Foreign Ministry has set up a special Consultative Council for International and External Economic Activities of Federation Components, a body that puts out its own special bulletin. It has opened 26 offices and two branch offices which work directly with 41 regions, and it plans to set up at least 14 more.

    And the Russian parliament has become involved, passing legislation that went into effect in 1999 that defined what the subjects of the federation could and could not do. As a result of this law and of stepped-up ministry representations in the regions, Orlov reports, the number of violations of federal rules on foreign contacts on the part of the regions fell from more than 100 in 1997 to only 11 in 1999.

    But more needs to be done, Orlov contends, both to prevent the regions from violating federal law and national policy and to take advantage of what the regions can offer in promoting Russian foreign policy interests. To that end, he suggests, the European Union's regional policy could serve as a useful model for the elaboration of a new and more comprehensive regional foreign policy plan by the central Russian government.

    First of all, he suggests, the EU's regional policy allows for continuing and tightening of central control by national governments over all such cross border accords, even when the regions on either side of the border have long experience in working with one another.

    Second, the EU's approach to regions also encourages cities and subregional territorial units to get involved in this process, a trend that both undercuts some of the regions by allowing their own subcomponents to play a role and also increases the opportunities for the central governments to develop international ties.

    And third, Orlov argues, the adoption of such an approach will help to promote a rapprochement between Russia and the European Union, or at the very least provide an important new venue for conversations and even negotiations between the two.

    But Orlov ends his article on a cautionary note by warning "our regional leaders and members of local government bodies against overoptimistic expectations connected with European regions." Such people, he says, "should hardly expect quick rewards," for while much has been written about European regional cooperation, relatively little has been achieved even there in integrating cross-border regions.

    Consequently, Orlov suggests, Russia's far-flung regions -- even if they do draw on the EU model -- may not have as bright a future ahead in foreign affairs as many of them now appear to hope or as some in Moscow quite clearly fear.

    29-01-01


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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