Country News Digest Issue #5 10/02/12-10/9/12
Country News Digest
On Sept. 29, Azerbaijani police arrested opposition activist and blogger Zaur Qurbanli, a 25-year-old man who took part in the Sing for Democracy movement during the Eurovision contest earlier this year and who has authored anti-regime election pamphlets. He has been charged with resisting arrest, and will be held for at least 15 days.
On Oct. 1, opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgia Dream coalition won the country’s parliamentary elections over incumbent President Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement. President Saakashvili has conceded defeat, resulting in the country’s first democratic and peaceful transition of power.
Articles: World Politics Review
The Armenian parliament voted to allow prosecution of former foreign minister Vartan Oskanian, stripping him of his parliamentary immunity. He is now expected to be formally charged with misappropriating a $1.4 million donation made to his Civilitas Foundation in late 2010. Oskanian and his Prosperous Armenia Party maintain the charges are politically motivated.
On Thursday the parliament authorized cross-border military operations into Syria after a deadly shelling on a Turkish village killed 5 and wounded 10. Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay stated this is not a declaration of war on Syria, but gives Turkey the right to respond in the event of any future attacks. Members of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) voted against the motion.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) issued a resolution condemning Russia’s recent laws limiting the opposition and curtailing freedoms, after Russian Duma Speaker Sergey Naryshkin canceled his visit to PACE last week. Russian leadership called the resolution a “double standard.”
Ukrainian First Deputy Prosecutor, Renat Kuzmin, in an open letter to Congress denied that Tymoshenko is a political prisoner, and claims that he has evidence of her participation in the 1996 murder of a Donetsk lawyer and three other people. His letter comes as a response to the Senate resolution calling for possible sanctions against Ukraine if the country does not release Tymoshenko and other political prisoners.
Economic data has revealed that Belarus misrepresented the export of millions of tons of Russian gasoline, calling them “solvents”, in an effort to avoid around $1 billion worth of customs duties that they would otherwise owe to Russia. After Russia criticized the action, Belarus has claimed that they stopped the illegal practice.
The Moscow Times
PACE, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, adopted a resolution demanding Russia withdraw military troops and equipment from Moldovan territory. Addressing the PACE session on Wednesday Moldovan president Nicolae Timofti called for the withdrawal of Russian forces and the reintegration of Transnistria with the Republic of Moldova.
Country News Digest
Protestors attempted to seize control of the White House in Bishkek on Wednesday. Police repelled the rioters and a small number of people were being treated for injuries. The protest follows the Kyrgyz parliament’s refusal to nationalize the Kumtor gold mine. Three members of Parliament were among those arrested.
The Kazakh government announced this week that U.S. oil firm ConocoPhillips will sell its share in the Kashagan oilfield. ConocoPhillips owns an 8.4% stake in the oilfield. The state-owned KazMunaiGas is interested in purchasing ConocoPhillips’ share in the project. The Kashagan oilfield is considered to be the largest oilfield discovered in the past 40 years and has many international partners.
Russia and Tajikistan are expected to sign an extension allowing the Russian 201st Mobilized Rifle Division to stay in Tajikistan. The division is the largest deployment abroad for the Russian military which maintains a presence in many of the former Soviet states in Central Asia.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov and his Turkmen counterpart Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov met last week to discuss joint security measures relating to the region. The discussion focused primarily on Afghanistan and joint approaches the two countries can take to secure regional security after the withdrawl of Western forces from the country.
The United States has abandoned plans for a peace deal with the Taliban. The US will instead work towards setting the stage for the Afghan government to secure a deal with the Taliban after the withdrawal of American troops in 2014. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated Monday that Western troops may withdraw before the 2014 deadline. Articles: New York Times Yahoo News
The Iranian rial plummeted to its lowest rate against the dollar in more than two decades this week, sending people into the streets protesting the skyrocketing cost of basic goods. European and US sanctions are largely credited with the rial’s decline, but protesters are placing the blame on the Iranian government.
On 27 Sept., Deputy Prime Minister of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov addressed the UN General Assembly and stressed the need for an international energy security framework. He called for a draft resolution on the creation of a legal system which takes into account the needs of energy producers, transit nations, and consumers.
Chinese aluminum giant, Chalco, has pulled out of a second Mongolian coal deal. The company was unable to win approval from Chinese and overseas authorities.
The Austrialian Sun
Country News Digest
In an official speech, Estonian Minister of Defense Urmas Reinsalu criticized European colleagues on cutting their defense budgets. He reiterated that no concessions should be made in the current security environment, “We likely would never have been able to speak about peace in Europe without NATO...”
Lithuania is filing a $1.9 claim on Gazprom, stating that the gas company has grossly overcharged the Baltic country for gas. They are taking the suit to an arbitrage court in Stockholm. Lithuanian state officials say that ever since 2004, when Gazprom acquired the Lithuanian gas company, Lietuvos Dujos, prices on gas have greatly increased.
The Latvian state prosecutor’s office announced it was reversing a decision by the state police to not investigate the involvement of Latvian banks in an alleged multimillion dollar Russian tax fraud made public by Sergei Magnitsky, the famed lawyer who died in detention in Russia in 2009. Colleagues of Magnitsky at Londonbased Hermitage Capital have accused Latvian banks of laundering up to $63 million.
The issue of abortion has dominated the Polish political landscape this week, with rival parties each proposing a bill that addresses the topic. United Poland’s bill would ban the abortion of fetuses with deformities, while the Polikot Movement’s bill would legalize abortions up to three months into the pregnancy. Meanwhile, Poland remains one of the only countries in Europe where abortion is illegal.
The President of the Czech Republic was shot at close range by a toy air-soft gun this week. A protester wielding the gun managed to push his way through a crowd and shoot the President without any immediate response from security. Although the President was only bruised, the head of the security has accepted responsibility and stepped down.
New Poland Express
In a move to reduce its budget deficit, Slovak Prime Minister Fico has decided to push for a higher corporate tax rate of 23% (formerly 19%) and increase the income tax rate on the highest earners from 19% to 25%. Experts believe that the Parliament will pass these measures quickly, since PM Fico’s Smer party is in the majority.
Business Week Articles:
Hungary’s Central Bank has urged cabinet members to readjust the budget in order to achieve deficit reduction targets, at the same time that the IMF has advised the country to focus less on austerity and more on growth. Prime Minister Viktor Orban rejected an IMF loan package on Oct. 1.
The Wall Street Journal Articles:
The re-elected president of the Party of European Socialists, Bulgarian socialist Sergei Stanishev, vowed in his acceptance speech to support Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta personally in upcoming elections. Mr. Ponta and his Social Democrat party were heavily criticized for their attempt to remove from office center-right President Traian Basescu. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for December 9. Articles: Novinite Neurope
Country News Digest
The Bulgarian Supreme Judicial Council (VSS) was formally seated this week and elected its first representative, Sonya Naydenova. The VSS is composed of 22 members elected to five-year terms. 11 members are selected by the Parliament and 11 by the judiciary. The judiciary elected six judges, four prosecutors and one investigating magistrate to the VSS.
Albania has recently sold its state owned oil company, Albpetroil, to Vetro energy, a US and Singapore-based oil company. Prime Minister Sali Berisha said that this venture will allow Albpetroil to explore off-shore oil and gas fields.
Washington Post Serbia’s Interior Ministry has banned a gay parade, scheduled for October 6th, as well as any related events to the parade. The state cited security concerns as the only reason for cancelling the parade. Civil Rights activists are not convinced, while state officials reminded that hundreds of people were injured by anti-gay groups in the 2010 parade.
Macedonian opposition parties led by the Social Democrats have begun the process of calling for a no-confidence vote. The opposition has criticized the ruling party for failing to deal with the deteriorating economic situation in the country and instead focusing on ethnic issues. Despite this, experts expect the government to survive.
Focus Information Agency
NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen indicated at the 67th Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly that Montenegro was fulfilling its commitments in line with the Membership Action Plan. The Membership Action Plan is designed to prepare Montenegro for full NATO membership, a step that some experts believe Montenegro could take by the year 2014.
Croatian farmers are using nuclear technology to help fight flies. Termed nuclear “birth control,” farmers are spraying their crops with sterilized flies, who have been bombarded with radioactive Cobalt-60, in order to reduce the fly population.
Serbian Prime Minister Dacic publicly suggested partitioning a northern region of Kosovo inhabited primarily by Serbs. The Prime Minister of Kosovo Hashim Thaci, as well as analysts from other countries, have called such a proposal unrealistic. Improving relations with Kosovo remains the biggest obstacle in Serbia’s path to integration into the European Union.
Meeting in the Slovenian capital on Thursday, the European Central Bank (ECB) announced there would be no change to its historically low interest rate of 0.75 percent. Marko Kranjec, member of the European Central Bank’s Governing Council and head of the Slovenian central bank, stated at the meeting that its “it’s too early” to say if Slovenia will need a financial aid package.
Country News Digest Bosnia and Herzegovinaâ€™s Bosnia & National Museum is closing Herzegovina due to the ongoing political funding crisis. The National Museum has operated almost continuously for 124 years, including remaining partially open during the Second World War. The pride of the National Museum is the Sarajevo Haggadah, a 14th Century Jewish manuscript. Guardian
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