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FORMER GERMAN LEADER SAYS EUROPE WILL 'NEVER' HAVE RUSSIAN GAS-SUPPLY PROBLEMS. Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who heads the stockholders' oversight body for the planned North European Gas Pipeline (NEGP) running from Vyborg to Greifswald, said in Schwerin on June 23 that mutual dependency between Russia and Europe is increasing because of growing European imports of Russian gas, Deutsche Welle reported. He stressed that the NEGP is of "great strategic importance, not just for Germany but also for all Western Europe." Schroeder added that "there have never been problems [with Russian gas deliveries to Germany], and I am sure that there never will be." He expressed understanding for Russian allegations that Ukraine is a destabilizing factor in energy supplies because gas is illegally siphoned off in transit through that country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 19, 2006). Schroeder was accompanied by Matthias Warnig, who heads Dresdner Bank's operations in Russia, is chief executive of the NEGP, and has been widely linked to the former East Germany's Stasi secret police (see "RFE/RL Newsline," December 12, 2005). Warnig stressed that the NEGP is observing strict environmental standards. He added that construction of the pipeline will begin in mid-2008 as scheduled and that the first Russian gas will arrive in Germany in October 2010. PM
END NOTE: UKRAINE'S NEW 'ORANGE' GOVERNMENT FACES SAME HURDLES AS
....AND CRITICIZES SLOW PROGRESS ON EURASIAN CUSTOMS UNION. President Lukashenka said at a summit of the Eurasian Economic Community in Minsk on June 23 that he is concerned at the slow pace in setting up the community's customs union, Belapan reported. "Speaking frankly, this process is not proceeding as quickly as we would like. We've made almost no progress in the establishment of a common customs schedule over the last year. The unification of customs duty rates still remains at a level of 62 percent. The governments of the community's member states appear to be making a somewhat insufficient effort in this regard," Lukashenka said. The Eurasian Economic Community is made up of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Meanwhile, Russian President Putin said in Minsk on June 23 that a merger of the Eurasian Economic Community and the Central Asian Cooperation Organization would have a "serious positive effect." The Central Asian Cooperation Organization consists of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Russia, while Georgia, Turkey, and Ukraine have observer status. JM
UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS DIFFER ON SESSION AGENDA. The newly formed parliamentary coalition -- Our Ukraine, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, and the Socialist Party -- wants to swear in judges of the Constitutional Court on June 27, UNIAN reported on June 26, quoting Ivan Bokyy, a member of the Verkhovna Rada's interim presidium. Bokyy added that the opposition Party of Regions and Communist Party are "decidedly" against this idea, demanding that the parliament elect speaker and constitute parliamentary committees first. Mykola Katerynchuk of Our Ukraine told journalists that the Communist Party is planning to block the parliamentary rostrum and prevent President Viktor Yushchenko from entering the session hall if the coalition pushes for the swear-in ceremony. The Constitutional Court has been inactive for nearly a year, because opposition lawmakers refused to invest its judges, fearing that President Yushchenko may ask the court to cancel the 2004 constitutional reform. Last month, Yushchenko threatened not to grant the coalition's request that he submit its preferred prime-ministerial candidate to parliament for approval if the legislature fails to swear in the constitutional judges. JM
UKRAINE'S NEW 'ORANGE' GOVERNMENT FACES SAME HURDLES AS FIRST
The three allies of the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine -- the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, Our Ukraine, and the Socialist Party -- decided on June 22 to recreate their ruling coalition, which existed for eight months in 2005. The renewed Orange coalition, however, comes into being under new rules of the political game determined by a constitutional reform that took effect at the beginning of 2006.
Yuliya Tymoshenko, leader of the eponymous political bloc, was fond of asserting during the parliamentary election campaign earlier this year that voting for the Verkhovna Rada on March 26 would decide who would actually govern Ukraine over the next five years. In this way she was highlighting the new, enhanced powers of the parliament and the cabinet of ministers vis-a-vis the presidency, which are a result of the constitutional changes made during the peak of the Orange Revolution in December 2004.
Would Tymoshenko repeat that assertion now, after her party has rejoined the ruling coalition and she personally is poised to become prime minister once again? Perhaps yes, but arguably with less confidence -- this because her coalition partners from Our Ukraine have made a considerable effort during the nearly three months of coalition talks in order to install an elaborate system of checks and balances to prevent her from gaining too much power.
A coalition deal signed on June 22 provides for the distribution of election spoils between the Orange allies on a broadly proportional basis. This means that the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc (129 seats) should get 53 percent of government posts, Our Ukraine (81 seats) 33 percent, and the Socialist Party (33 seats) 14 percent.
But this arithmetic does not apply to some major state posts that the constitution defines as a presidential quota. In particular, the president has the right to appoint the foreign minister, the defense minister, the prosecutor-general, the head of the Security Service, the head of the National Bank, and all regional governors. It should be expected that these appointments will be made by President Viktor Yushchenko mostly from the ranks of the pro-presidential Our Ukraine.
Moreover, presidential prerogatives include appointing half the members of the National Radio and Television Council, the National Bank Council, and the Constitutional Court. The president also has veto powers on legislation, which can be overturned by no fewer than 300 votes in the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada. Thus, even after the 2004 shift from the presidential to parliamentary form of governance in Ukraine, President Yushchenko appears to have more political clout than most of his counterparts in Central Europe.
According to unconfirmed media reports, the June 22 coalition deal allocates the post of prime minister and nine ministerial portfolios to the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc. Our Ukraine is to take the posts of parliamentary speaker and deputy prime minister as well as five ministerial portfolios. The Socialist Party will have to satisfy itself with the post of first deputy prime minister and three ministerial portfolios.
The posts of heads of parliamentary committees are distributed among the coalition partners under a similar proportional scheme, but an adopted system of checks and balances assures that Our Ukraine and the Socialist Party control those committees that deal with the spheres of cabinet activities under the control of ministers from the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc.
The Orange coalition deal also includes a chapter called "The Regulations of the Coalition's Activities," which sets internal rules and procedures for arriving at coordinated decisions. According to these rules, every coalition partner has the power of veto over proposed legislation, and consensus is needed for submitting a draft bill or resolution to the Verkhovna Rada.
The main programmatic issues -- mapping out principal foreign and domestic policies and drafting the cabinet's program of action -- are to be tackled by the General Assembly of the Coalition, which consists of all 243 lawmakers from the three Orange parties. The General Assembly of the Coalition adopts resolutions by voting: a decision is deemed passed if it is supported by more than 50 percent of lawmakers in each coalition party.
On a daily basis, the work of the coalition is coordinated by the nine-member Coalition Council, which is made up of three lawmakers from each coalition party.
There are also rules obliging the coalition to consult on issues of special importance with the three top state officials: the president, the prime minister, and the parliamentary speaker.
In particular, the coalition, through its council, has to hold mandatory consultations with the president regarding the determination of foreign and domestic policies and a program of socioeconomic development. The same applies to submitting the candidacy of a prime minister for parliamentary approval.
The prime minister is restricted in his/her actions by a requirement to hold mandatory consultations with the Coalition Council regarding the nomination of cabinet and other officials whom the constitution assigns to his/her sphere of authority. A similar requirement applies to cabinet dismissals.
In other words, for the first time in Ukraine's 15 years of independence, the Ukrainian political elite have agreed on a set of rules that can make running the government in the country a fairly transparent and civilized business. This circumstance, coupled with the constitutional reform that distributes political clout among the power branches more evenly, may be seen as an indisputable gain of the Orange Revolution.
However, the upsetting part of all this is that people intending to run a new government in Ukraine are essentially the same people who split in September 2005 among mutual accusations of corruption and/or encroaching upon each other's prerogatives.
Our Ukraine's proposal that Petro Poroshenko, Tymoshenko's fiercest enemy in the 2005 feud within the then-Orange coalition, take the post of parliamentary speaker seems to be an ill-advised "parliamentary check" on Tymoshenko as the head of the cabinet. There is a great likelihood that the former rivalry between these two might start anew, plunging the new coalition once again into recriminations and quarreling.
Incidentally, representatives of the opposition Party of Regions predict that precisely because of the incompatibility of such individuals as Tymoshenko and Poroshenko, the new Orange coalition is doomed to collapse in the same way as its Orange predecessor did. Bracing itself for such an eventuality, the Party of Regions is keeping its options open and has avoided saying "no" to a future coalition with Our Ukraine.
Our Ukraine unambiguously suggested that its own coalition with the Party of Regions is a possibility when it invited its main enemy in the Orange Revolution to participate in coalition talks last week. Therefore, what looked like an attempt to blackmail Tymoshenko into becoming more pliant in the coalition talks a week ago may well prove to be a practical move.