Black Sea Group Agrees to Form Bank

The 11 nations of the Black Sea Economic Partnership agreed to form a Black Sea Development Bank, to be based at Salonika, Greece, at a summit in Moscow on Friday.

The bank will potentially give the organization the financial muscle to pull off its ambitious plans, including the creation of a fiber optic network.

The organization, established in 1992, includes Azerbaijan, Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, Romania, Turkey, and Ukraine.

The delegates, presidents and prime ministers from the member states, also agreed to take "urgent measures to fight against organized crime, terrorism, trafficking of drugs, arms, or radioactive equipment, and illegal emigration" and also develop a joint energy policy.

The fiber-optic plan promises to link up Palermo, Istanbul, Odessa and Novorossisk, with the connection eventually reaching as far east as Japan and Khabarovsk and as far north as St. Petersburg and Denmark.

Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin hailed the summit's achievements, saying the Cooperation Forum "helps to create the atmosphere of stability and confidence in the region."

Though several nations have increased their ties with the West since the fall of the Soviet bloc, their representatives indicated that ties in the East remain very necessary.

After the summit, Mircea Snegur, president of the former Soviet republic of Moldova, who will stand for re-election next month, held a press conference in which he stressed that his country, which has in four years gone from having 92 percent of its trade with the former Soviet Union to having 40 percent of its trade with the West, still needs close ties in the Black Sea region. He indicated that Moldova still gets practically all its energy from Russia, so cooperation was not only desirable, but necessary. Further, he said that Moldova should refine its connections with Ukraine and Rumania to the extent that "with I.D. in hand, one can leave one country in the morning and return to it in the evening."

Snegur said however that Moldova is not even prepared to recognize another Black Sea state, the rebel republic of Transdnestr, which after a bitter war in 1992 seceded from Moldova with the help of the Russian 14th army.

Snegur said that he had declined to sign a deal that had been floated by Trandnestr formalizing relations because it would indirectly give it the status of an independent state.