Russian press-review, 05.03.07

The Russian press expects that the EU summit on Thursday will see Russia’s foreign policy discussed. It also covers private medical services, taxation, and the nomination of “Memorial” human right group for Nobel Peace Prize.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes about Thursday's EU summit in Brussels. The President of the Union, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will open the meeting. She's been pushing for a new Constitution to be finalised by July. Germany's plan for Europe's energy policy will also be presented at the summit. Although the EU's relationship with Russia is not formally on the agenda, it is likely to be talked about. The paper says this is because firstly, the majority of international issues cannot be solved without Moscow, and secondly, because the new eastern European members are likely to set up an anti-Russian coalition in the Union. The paper points out that the U.S. plan to place missile bases in Europe is another stumbling block between the EU and Russia. And since the topic will most definitely be discussed at the summit, it will be almost impossible to ignore Russia.

Novie Izvestiya reports that in an emergency as many as 10% of Moscow's citizens would choose private ambulance services over state ones. They say it's because of a disastrous lack of state-owned ambulances. People in need of urgent medical attention are turning to private medical groups because it often takes so long for a state-run ambulance to arrive. Statistics show private medical firms are growing in popularity, with more people using them instead of the free state-funded health service. The paper says private clinics could be the future of medical care in Russia. But almost 80% of Russians cannot afford private treatment, meaning social disaster could be on the horizon.

Vedomosti reports that as much as almost $US 15 BLN could be missing from Russia's state budget. Officials from the Federal Tax Service say it could be due to insufficient collection of Value Added Tax. They believe the VAT-generated revenues predicted in the budget have been overestimated. Some tax officials believe the situation will improve if VAT is reduced and collected more efficiently. Experts say falling oil prices could also undermine the stability of the 2007 budget. The paper claims the deficit could be balanced using cash from the stabilisation fund.

Novie Izvestiya reports on the nomination of one of Russia's leading human rights organisations for this year's Nobel Peace Prize. “Memorial” was put forward by MPs from the European Parliament. If they win, “Memorial” would become the third Russian recipient of the peace prize after Andrey Sakharov and Mikhail Gorbachev. The group started as a human rights movement in 1987 and was given official status as a human rights organisation two years later. In 1991 it pushed for a law to rehabilitate victims of political repression.