Country News Digest Issue #10 11/03/12-11/09/12
Country News Digest
The 7th United Nations Internet Governance Forum (IGF) began in Baku on Tuesday. Activists have voiced concerns about the conference ranging from Azerbaijan’s restrictions on the press and persecution of journalists to the potentially restrictive measures discussed.
Several of President Saakashvili’s allies in the Ministry of Defense have been brought in for questioning by the new government under Prime Minister Ivanishvili. Bacho Akhalaia, former interior and defense minister, and General Georgy Kalandadze were detained amid accusations of abuse of power.
New York Times
On Monday United States Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern warned against attacks on civilian airplanes near the Stepanakert airport in Nagorno-Karabakh and urged both sides of the conflict to refrain from provocative actions. Last week US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland urged both parties to find a solution in regards to the operation of the airport based on international law.
On Monday Turkey’s ruling AK Party officially introduced a proposal in parliament for a new presidential system as part of its process of creating a new constitution. Under the current system the presidency is largely a ceremonial position. The proposal for a revamped presidency is seen as a bid by the AKP to create a more powerful presidential seat for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2014.
On Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin relieved Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov of his post in the midst of a corruption scandal involving the sale of military equipment. Serdyukov has been replaced by Sergey Shoigu, former governor of the Moscow region.
Svoboda, Ukraine’s ultraright nationalist party, had a strong showing in the parliamentary elections. Their performance has raised alarm from Israel, which warned against the rise of xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Ukraine. Oleg Tyagnibok, Svoboda’s leader, rejects these claims.
Molotov cocktails were thrown at the Lithuanian Embassy in Minsk in a nighttime attack that Lithuania is calling an act of terror. Lithuania has had strained relations with Belarus after allowing a Swedish plane to pass through its airspace en route to dropping pro-democracy propaganda in Belarus in July.
Radio Free Europe
On Thursday a Moldovan MP punched another MP in the face after tempers flared over questions on how Prime Minister Vladimir Filat spends public money. After Moldovan Communist Party member Zinaida Chistruga questioned how the premier spends money on foreign trips, Liberal Democrat Alexandru Cimbriciuc shoved Communist Iurie Muntean, who inturn punched Cimbriciuc in the face.
Country News Digest
Centerra Gold, the Canadian company that runs Kumtor gold mines, is now saying that the gold field may contain up to 58% more gold than originally believed. It was welcome news for the company which was hit with numerous production problems last year. Earlier this fall protesters in the capital demanded the nationalization of the company.
Grain exports for this year are expected to be lower than originally forecasted due to the drought that affected most of the country. The announced drop in anticipated exports comes as Russia is considering easing the restrictions on the import of grain from Kazakhstan in order to make up for their own shortage in the country. Kazakhstan expects to export 7 million tons.
The Tajik government this week decided to invest in an Indian handicraft company. Handicraft items from the Central Indian state of Chhattisgarh have proven popular with the Tajik people. The Tajik government has since signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chhattisgarh Handicraft Board detailing the investment.
The Moscow apartment of President Karimov’s daughter Gulnara Karimova has been seized by Russian authorities. The apartment, estimated to be worth $10 million, was seized with a court order. The seizure is thought to be related to the MTS conflict between Russia and Uzbekistan. Earlier this year Uzbek authorities seized MTS assets in the country causing significant losses for the company.
This week the United Nations added the Haqqani network to a U.N. blacklist. President Hamid Karzai’s chief spokesman stated that Kabul backed the decision but that it should have been made a long time ago. Though it is continuing talks with the Taliban, the Afghan government has ruled out negotiations with the Haqqani network.
Iran has banned the import of “luxury goods” in an effort to shore up the sanctions-hit economy and stem the outward flow of domestic capital. The ban includes 75 products ranging from foreign cars to mobile phones to toilet paper, although foreign parts will continue to be imported if a product is assembled in Iran - like Peugeot automobiles. Annually Iran spends $12 billion on the import of luxury and non-essential goods.
On November 6, the Caspian Environmental Forum commenced in Turkmenistan’s Avaza conservation zone. Representatives from all five Caspian littoral states - Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Turkmenistan - will discuss ecological resources, pollution, and conservation.
The governments of Japan and North Korea are holding a meeting in Ulan Bator to discuss North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals during the Cold War. North Korea has insisted that the abduction issue has been long resolved.
Country News Digest
While Americans grumbled about having to wait hours in line to vote, Estonians have been voting online since 2005. Internet voting works for Estonia because all Estonians are granted a government ID with a scannable chip and a PIN number that gives them a unique online identity, which makes voter fraud difficult.
Lithuania’s center-left continues to seek the president’s backing for their centrally-planned government. Lithuanian president, Dalia Grybauskaite, alleges that the Labor Party engaged in electoral fraud and tax evasion. Until the constitution court has ruled on the allegations against the Labor party, a new government cannot be formed.
Latvia announced it is seeking closer ties with Azerbaijan after an Azeri parliamentary delegation visited Riga earlier this week. Latvia’s Secretary of State Andris Teikmanis said the main goal of the proposed joint projects is to diversify Latvia’s energy supplies. Teikmanis also stated Latvia supports the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiation process, as well as the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.
Gazprom has renegotiated its agreement with Polish utility firm PGNiG, reducing the price of gas by more than 10%. Gazprom framed the move as an adjustment to European market conditions, which have seen the price of gas decrease drastically due to decreased demand and an influx of supply from North America.
Wall Street Journal
After winning over six rebellious members of his party, Prime Minister Petr Necas has withstood another vote of no confidence. The vote was tied to a new tax bill, which raised taxes to a level that would bring the Czech deficit in line with EU requirements.
A bridge located in the eastern district of Levoca collapsed this week. The bridge was under construction at the time and was intended to form part of the D1 highway. Four people were killed in the accident, with several others severely injured.
The Hungarian government has succeeded in cutting its budget deficit forecast to 2.7% of GDP, enough to allay the European Commission’s concerns for at least another year. Although the EC has called Hungary’s 2013 budget “distortionary,” it has not yet stopped development aid to the country, even though the deficit gap is expected to widen in 2014.
President Basescu and Prime Minister Ponta met for the first time since their bitter feud earlier this year over Mr. Ponta’s attempt at impeaching Mr. Basescu. The two discussed the economy and pending judicial reforms. Mr. Ponta has vowed to try and avoid another political crisis with elections due this December citing the need for budgetary legislation.
Country News Digest
The Patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church died on Tuesday of heart failure. Patriarch Maxim was ninety-eight years old and the longest serving patriarch in the Church’s history. He was elected to his post in 1971 during Communist rule and there have been debates as to whether he was elected or rather appointed by the Communist authorities.
One of Albania’s former political prisoners, Lirak Bejko, died after setting himself on fire in protest of the government’s refusal to compensate them for unjust imprisonment. Hundreds attended his funeral in Tirana.
Archeologists from the University of Tübingen’s Institute of Prehistory in cooperation with the Serbian Archaeological Institute in Belgrade have discovered one of the largest old hoards from the Neolithic era in Belica, Serbia. The figurines are estimated to be almost 8,000 years old.
This week the Foreign Minister of Macedonia, Nikola Poposki, responded to a “memorandum of understanding” proposed by Greece in October, which aimed at reinvigorating talks on the name dispute between the countries. This dispute has largely been responsible for keeping Macedonia from EU integration.
Gazprom’s South stream project is to bypass Croatia completely, with the route going from Serbia directly to Hungary. Plinacro, Croatia’s state-owned gas company, stated that it was not aware of Gazprom’s new plan. The South stream pipeline is a rival to NABUCCO.
After receiving the most votes but not an outright majority, the Democratic Party of Socialists has managed to put together a coalition that will allow them to maintain their rule of the country. The Prime Minister has not yet been named, but analysts speculate it could be the DPS leader Milo Djukanovic, who has served in the past.
Catherine Ashton, the head of foreign affairs of the European Union, has arranged for another set of meetings between Prime Minister Thaci of Kosovo and Prime Minister Dacic of Serbia. The European Union has stated that Serbia must improve relations with Kosovo to be seriously considered for EU membership.
Radio Free Europe
Slovenian Parliamentary Speaker Gregor Virant said he will decide whether or not to hold a referendum on recapitalizing the banks on November 12. Opposition lawmakers requested a referendum on the proposed bad bank acts last week. Standard and Poor’s put Slovenia on Credit Watch amid the possibility a referendum would vote down the much needed economic overhaul, forcing Slovenia to request an international bailout.
Wall Street Journal
Country News Digest The events in Srebrenica Bosnia & were cited this week as Herzegovina reason not to delay action in Syria. Turkeyâ€™s Prime Minister Erdogan critiqued the United Nations Security Council for failing to act so far on the events going on in Syria. The Srebrenica massacre is one of the worst atrocities of post-WWII European history and, according to Erdogan, saw the UN sit by while thousands were killed. Reuters
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