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MOSCOW, May 17 (RIA Novosti) Kazakhstan's constitution to echo French one/ The benefits of church reunification/ Yeltsin to be memorialized in Yekaterinburg/ Moscow may take tough stand in relations with Brussels

Vremya Novostei

Kazakhstan's constitution to echo French one

The President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed that both houses of parliament approve his long-awaited democratic reform program saying that his principle of "Economy first, politics next" had fully justified itself. He silenced those who disagreed with the historic example that "certain poor nations became a democracy with low economic development, but those democracies died quickly as a rule."
Nazarbayev asked parliament to consider and approve the proposed additions and amendments to the constitution within one week. The amended constitution will preserve the presidency although reducing the presidential tenure, "as in France" from seven years to five from 2012, when President Nazarbayev's term expires.
The government of Kazakhstan will be formed by a parliamentary majority, while the prime minister will be appointed by the president after consultations with parliament factions from key political parties, and approval by the parliamentary majority. The amended constitution will stipulate a much simpler procedure for passing a no confidence vote in the government.
If looked at carefully enough, the proposed amendments appear to expand presidential powers. For example, they will allow the head of state to dissolve parliament without any formal reason, while parliament will no longer have the power to accuse the president of high treason.
One of the opposition leaders, Zharmakhan Tuyakbai from the Social Democratic Party of Kazakhstan, sarcastically "welcomed" the changes, but described them as "too little."
Another long-time opposition leader and former prime minister of Kazakhstan, Akezhan Kazhegeldin, criticized Nazarbayev's bid at political modernization more harshly. Having been invited to the inauguration of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Kazhegeldin told the VN correspondent after the ceremony that "as viewed from Paris" the need for real political reform in Kazakhstan looks "way too obvious," since the authors of the new Kazakh constitution had gone on so much about it resembling the French one.
The ex-premier said it was French President Jacques Chirac who proposed reducing the presidential term to five years, but he started with his own second tenure, whereas in Kazakhstan the change will only come into force in 2012.

Vedomosti

The benefits of church reunification

The Act of Canonical Communion re-establishing ties between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) was signed at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow Thursday.
The document, signed by Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia and Metropolitan Laurus, the ROCOR First Hierarch, is widely seen as a milestone on the way toward overcoming a decades-long rift with the foreign-based branch that has existed since the 1918-1922 Civil War in Russia.
This significant event will provide ample political benefits for the top hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is now facing a difficult situation because the Council of Bishops, its top governing body, has not met in the last 19 years.
The Russian Orthodox Church has now split into liberal and conservative wings, uniting discontented priests and believers alike.
However, the top clergy does not encourage intra-church discussion and prefers to overlook all contradictions.
The reunification with the ROCOR apparently implies that the overall situation is favorable; and the historical merits of the parties in the process downplay mistakes or inaction in other spheres of church life.
ROCOR hierarchs therefore have no alternative because, under its regulations, the foreign-based branch had the status of a self-governing entity pending the abolition of "atheist rule" in Russia and has never severed its ties with the Russian Orthodox Church.
This obstacle to reunification was removed after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. However, the ROCOR managed to obtain complete independence during the 20-year reunification talks.
President Vladimir Putin, who took part in the reunification process and who visited Metropolitan Laurus in 2003, also stands to gain from this.
Apart from legitimizing the incumbent government as a legal successor of pre-revolution tsarist rule, church reunification could probably become the main historical event of the Putin presidency.
The reunification process has many political aspects because the churches drifted apart in the 1920s for political, rather than religious, reasons.
Congregations are also influenced by political decisions. Official reunification will help overcome mutual distrust and will make things easier for believers, due to the convenient locating of parishes abroad.
The reunification experience has great significance for Russian society. Moreover, respectful talks between society's mutually hostile segments that had serious historical reasons to dislike each other, the coordination of common positions for reconciliation and subsequent reunification on this basis are a unique experience for Russia.

Kommersant

Yeltsin to be memorialized in Yekaterinburg

Yesterday a special commission of the Yekaterinburg administration selected four possible ways to memorialize Russia's first president, Boris Yeltsin, who studied and worked in the Urals city. It may rename the Koltsovo airport, a new metro station, the Rabochaya Molodezh Embankment, or one of the city's squares.
The city's residents brought up the idea on April 23, the day Yeltsin died. Some even proposed that Yekaterinburg be renamed Yeltsinburg or Yeltsingrad. Others suggested that Yeltsin's name be given to the city's main thoroughfare, Lenin Street, to the square where the Atrium Palace Hotel international business center is located, or to the Urals Polytechnic.
Mayor Arkady Chernetsky forwarded the four chosen variations to Yeltsin's family for consideration.
But the local government lacks funds to implement them. For example, it would take 1.24 million rubles (about $50,000) to install new luminous plaques along Lenin Street, and the renaming could provoke "ideological strife" in the city, according to Konstantin Pudov, the mayor's spokesman.
Boris Nalivaiko, chief engineer of the Yekaterinburg metro, is against renaming the metro station: "We would have to change all documents, which would be a very long, interminable and drawn-out process."
But the management at the Koltsovo Airport Company seem to like the idea. Filipp Fedulov, first deputy director general of the company, said: "Airports all over the world are named after prominent politicians. Giving Yeltsin's name to our airport would raise the status and attractiveness of the Sverdlovsk Region, making it instantly recognizable."
He added that the final say was down to the airport's main beneficiaries, the Federal Property Management Agency (Rosimushchestvo) and Koltsovo-Invest, a company controlled by Renova, a stakeholder and strategic investor of leading Russian companies in the metals, oil, engineering, mining and other sectors.
Renova refused to comment on the idea.
President Vladimir Putin said in his state of the nation address April 26 that a library named after Boris Yeltsin would be established in Russia by the end of 2008. The library is to become "an information link to the country's library system."

Nezavisimaya Gazeta

Moscow may take tough stand in relations with Brussels

The Russia-EU summit, due to open Thursday in Samara, a city on the Volga River, is quite unique because its results could spell victory for the EU and a serious setback for Russia or vice versa.
Dmitry Suslov, deputy director of research programs at the Foreign and Defense Policy Council, said this was linked with the current state of Russia-EU relations and with EU internal problems.
He said Germany, which has now assumed presidency of the EU, considers the adoption of the EU Constitution its top priority. The Constitution was rejected during a recent referendum; consequently, Berlin wants to prove the successful nature of its presidency and the European Commission - its effectiveness by achieving advantageous resolutions.
He said Russia has recently accused the EU of conniving with efforts to rewrite the history of World War II and said it could pull out of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. Moscow also said it could withdraw from the Interim Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and retarget its missiles against EU facilities. Although such statements could have provoked an all-out crisis in the past, Brussels and Berlin decided not to call off the summit in Samara.
The European media recently said the EU Council had approved a "confidential document" implying that the EU would not let Russia join the World Trade Organization, unless Moscow meets Brussels' energy, phytosanitary, agriculture and, transport demands. This provision is illegal because the protocol on Russia's accession to the WTO was signed three years ago, Suslov said.
Most importantly, Brussels wants Moscow to sign an agreement based on the so called agreed upon principles for overhauling the existing system of trans-Siberian overflight routes at the upcoming summit. The decision to sign this agreement was made by the EU Transport Council and the Council of EU Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers without prior consultations with Russia. The EU is therefore exerting unprecedented pressure on Moscow.
If Russia signs the agreement, it would face additional WTO accession demands, would undermine the national aircraft industry and would be unable to control its own airspace.
Moscow has no alternative but to assume a tough stand and make no concessions to the EU because it would otherwise suffer foreign-policy setbacks and economic losses.


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