"What's New?  How Is the World Treating You?"

"What's New? How Is the World Treating You?"  In 1939 Johnny Burke (1908-1964) composed the music and Bob Haggard (1914-1998) wrote the lyrics for the hit song "What's New?" whose first line serves as the title of this blog.  To listen to Linda Ronstadt (born 1946) perform "What's New?" with Nelson Riddle (1921-1985) and his orchestra (Asylum, 1983), click here.  A new window will open, allowing the music to play in the background.

Check this web page for occasional posts containing news and commentary, mainly about events in Central Europe.  The lead stories appear immediately after the table of contents.  To read the article of your choice, either click on the title that appears in the table of contents or scroll down the page.
For news and commentary from the most recent past quarter, click here.  For earlier quarters in the year or previous years, see the Introduction and Index for "What's New?"

Table of Contents for the Third Quarter of 2012


  1. 1 Czech President Assassination Scare   30 September 2012
  2. 2 Student Loan Default Data Released    28 September 2012
  3. 3 German Catholics Must Pay Their Taxes    28 September 2012
  4. 4 The Fate of Hitler’s Birthplace    28 September 2012
  5. 5 More Austerity in Span and Greece    28 September 2012
  6. 6 End in Sight to the Methanol Crisis in the Czech Republic    26 September 2012
  7. 7 Protests in Madrid and Athens    26 September 2012
  8. 8 Historian Discovers Three Articles by Burke    26 September 2012
  9. 9 States’ Funding for Universities Declining Swiftly    26 September 2012
  10. 10 The Ballots of Belarus    24 September 2012
  11. 11 New to CentralEuropeanObserver.com: Guest Pages    23 September 2012
  12. 12 Merkel and Hollande Call for a Stronger Europe    23 September 2012
  13. 13 Time Banks in Spain    22 September 2012
  14. 14 Reprieve for Greece?    22 September 2012
  15. 15 Possible EU Sanctions against Russians    22 September 2012
  16. 16 From Russia with Love: Diamonds Are Forever    21 September 2012
  17. 17 US Releases Papers Regarding Katyń    21 September 2012
  18. 18 Will Slovenia Block Croatian Entry to the EU?    21 September 2012
  19. 19 Prisoner Abuse in Georgia    21 September 2012
  20. 20 An Update on Politics in Ukraine    21 September 2012
  21. 21 “The Past Is Not Past”: Timothy Garton Ash Interview    19 September 2012
  22. 22 Five Reasons Why the European Union Will Not Fail    16 September 2012
  23. 23 Fake Citizenship Papers Through Romania    15 September 2012
  24. 24 Pussy Riot’s Theology    14 September 2012
  25. 25 Estonian Wight Loss Advertisement    12 September 2012
  26. 26 Methanol Sold as Alcohol Kills at Least 20 in Central Europe    12 September 2012
  27. 27 Bulgaria or Macedonia?    12 September 2012
  28. 28 German Court Approves Bond Plan    12 September 2012
  29. 29 Kosovo Independent    12 September 2012
  30. 30 Black Market Harms Central European Economies    12 September 2012
  31. 31 EU Components for Belarusian Spy Planes    12 September 2012
  32. 32 Move Over Microsoft and Google–Now There’s Gazprom    8 September 2012
  33. 33 Euroscepticism on the Decline    7 September 2012
  34. 34 Archaeologists Close to Finding the Tomb of Richard III    7 September 2012
  35. 35 Soap Opera Material: Hungary, Azerbaijan, and Armenia     5 September 2012
  36. 36 EU Pressures on Serbia    5 September 2012
  37. 37 Bulgaria and Poland Delay Adopting the Euro     5 September 2012
  38. 38 Slovakia’s Strong Economy    3 September 2012
  39. 39 Greece: The Perils of Privatization    2 September 2012
  40. 40 Czech Hops Production Down    2 September 2012
  41. 41 Ukraine’s Supreme Court Upholds Tymoshenko’s Conviction    29 August 2012
  42. 42 Parliament Reinstates Romania’s President    27 August 2012
  43. 43 Pussy Riot Members in Exile   26 August 2012
  44. 44 Internet Donations for a Tesla Museum    24 August 2012
  45. 45 Alleged Nazi War Criminal László Csizsik-Csatáry    24 August 2012
  46. 46 Greek Government Seeking Extension on Bailout Terms    23 August 2012
  47. 47 Prague’s Gay Pride Parade    22 August 2012
  48. 48 Romanian President Survives Referendum    22 August 2012
  49. 49 Pussy Riot Sentenced to Two Years    22 August 2012
  50. 50 Mixed News for Central European and Balkan Economies    22 August 2012
  51. 51 Tymoshenko Barred from Ukrainian Elections    22 August 2012
  52. 52 False Border Crossing Tricked Escapees    22 August 2012
  53. 53 Australia Court Refuses to Extradite Alleged Nazi War Criminal    22 August 2012
  54. 54 Slovak Overseeing Greek Bailout Resigns    13 August 2012
  55. 55 EU Decided Not Retaliate against Belarus    13 August 2012
  56. 56 Unbearable Messages over Belarus    10 August 2012
  57. 57 Romanian Judges under Pressure    10 August 2012
  58. 58 Judge Postpones Decision in Romania    3 August 2012
  59. 59 Pussy Riot Trial   1 August 2012
  60. 60 Czech Republic Represents US in Syria    1 August 2012
  61. 61 Statements from 1935 Found under Austrian Monument    31 July 2012
  62. 62 Romney's Reception in Poland    31 July 2012
  63. 63 Romanian President Claims Victory    31 July 2012
  64. 64 Barroso Pressures the Greeks    31 July 2012
  65. 65 Antonín Holý (1936-2012)    31 July 2012
  66. 66 Sunday's Referendum in Romania    26 July 2012
  67. 67 Romania’s Continued Defection from Democracy    23 July 2012
  68. 68 Bulgarian Bombing    23 July 2012
  69. 69 Romania Faces Delays in Its Bid to Enter Schengen    16 July 2012
  70. 70 Hitler's Protection for a Jew    16 July 2012
  71. 71 Interview with Zhukov's Biographer    10 July 2012
  72. 72 Challenges to Democracy in Romania    7 July 2012.
  73. 73 Pope Fired Slovak Bishop   7 July 2012
  74. 74 BACK TO TOPAirbus comes to Mobile, AL    2 July 2012
  75. 75 Posts for July and August    1 July 2012

Czech President Assassination Scare   30 September 2012

The president of the Czech Republic, Václav Klaus, was unharmed after a twenty-six-year-old man,  Pavel Vondrouš, shot him several times in the side at close range on 28 September with a plastic Airsoft gun in Chrastava, Northern Bohemia.  The perpetrator, who claimed to have communist sympathies but stated that he is not a member of the Communist party, wanted to protest the government policies that “starved one-third of the nation.”  All political parties, including the Communist party, condemned the act.  The effectiveness of the president’s security team came under scrutiny because the attacker got so close to the president and then managed to talk to reporters before being apprehended.  The head of the president’s guard, a career police official, resigned because he felt personally responsible for the mishandling of the situation.  See the English versions of Radio Prague’s news at http://www.radio.cz/en/news on 28, 29, and 30 September 2012.

Student Loan Default Data Released    28 September 2012

The US Department of Education has revealed that 13.4 percent of students defaulted on their student loans within the first three years of repayment, with for-profit institutions having the highest default rate. 

A brief article in the Chronicle of Higher Education is at http://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/13-4-of-students-defaulted-on-loans-within-3-years-of-repayment-u-s-says/49810?cid=pm&utm_source=pm&utm_medium=en.  The official release is at http://www2.ed.gov/offices/OSFAP/defaultmanagement/cdr.html, and the press release is at http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/first-official-three-year-student-loan-default-rates-published.

German Catholics Must Pay Their Taxes    28 September 2012

The Catholic bishops in Germany have announced that those who do not pay their religious taxes, which amount to 9 percent of a person’s income, will not receive the sacraments, such as baptism, marriage, and last rites.  See the AP feed at http://www.salon.com/2012/09/28/no_tax_no_blessing_german_church_insists_on_levy/singleton/.

The Fate of Hitler’s Birthplace    28 September 2012

The town of Braunau am Inn, Austria, sits in the Inn River on the border with Germany.  Walk away from the river, across the town square, through the city gate, and on the left one will see a memorial made of granite from Mauthausen Concentration Camp on which is written in German: “For peace, freedom, and democracy.  Never again fascism.  Remember the millions of dead.”  Behind that memorial is a nondescript stucco building, half a millennium old, which happens to be the birthplace of Adolf Hitler.  The tenants have moved out, and the owner of the building, an elderly woman whose identity is secret, must decide what to do with the property.  The mayor of Braunau wants to make the building into apartments, while others propose a museum to tell the horrors of Nazism.  The mayor believes that Braunau receives enough bad publicity because of its infamous native son, but many fear that renting apartments in the building will attract Nazi admirers.

See the AP feed at http://news.yahoo.com/town-debates-future-house-hitlers-birth-162253013.html (note the inaccurate translation in the article for the inscription on the granite memorial).

More Austerity in Span and Greece    28 September 2012

Amidst protests in Athens and Madrid, the Greek and Spanish governments have passed austerity measures designed to secure loans that will keep the two countries afloat financially.  The new budget in Spain has cut €40 billion and raise taxes.  Greece, whose debt crisis has been the focus of attention since 2009, has passed new taxes and austerity measures to satisfy the so-called troika of lenders, the European Central Bank, European Commission and International Monetary Fund, in order to receive the next tranche of bailout money.  For the Greeks, this will mean €3 billion from new flat taxes on the self-employed as well as budget cuts of €10.5 billion that will come from trimming the state employment rolls, reducing wages and pensions, and eliminating the bonus for retirees.  The government also decided to raise the retirement age to 67 years.  All of these steps will amount to €13.5 billion.

See http://news.yahoo.com/spain-greece-launch-austerity-plans-secure-aid-183921633--finance.html; http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443916104578021882943321370.html?mod=googlenews_wsj; and http://euobserver.com/economic/117686.

End in Sight to the Methanol Crisis in the Czech Republic    26 September 2012

Methanol-laced alcohol has claimed its twenty-sixth victim in the Czech Republic, and many individuals have been hospitalized, but it appears that the crisis is abating.  On 24 September, Czech authorities charged two individuals who worked for a company that manufactured automobile windshield washer fluid with mixing the poisonous concoction.  Their motive was to ease their financial difficulties.  More than forty individuals have been involved in the distribution of the alcohol, and police are still tracking down 15,000 liters of the methanol spirits.

Beginning tomorrow, sales of hard alcohol will begin again with new seals for the bottles.  The problem of illegal alcohol remains in the EU, however, because of high taxes on legally-purchased products.

SOURCES: http://praguemonitor.com/2012/09/26/bootleg-alcohol-claims-26th-victim-czech-republic; http://www.iol.co.za/news/world/czechs-ease-alcohol-ban-1.1390699#.UGPBDq7FCSI; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/22/czech-republic-alcohol-ban_n_1905743.html; and Radio Prague news releases in Czech.

Protests in Madrid and Athens    26 September 2012

Demonstrations occurred in Madrid on Tuesday, 25 September, and a general strike took place in Athens today to protest austerity measures in Spain and Greece.  Details of events in Madrid are at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-19712203, and information on the situation in Athens is at http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/09/26/161800263/tear-gas-rocks-fly-at-anti-austerity-protest-in-athens?ft=3&f=1001&sc=nl&cc=nh-20120926.

Historian Discovers Three Articles by Burke    26 September 2012

Professor Richard Bourke at Queen Mary, University of London, has discovered three articles from the pen of Edmund Burke (1729-1797).  The articles are from around 1757, often termed “the missing years” in Burke’s career.  Bourke maintains that  “It has always been known that in the middle of the 1750s Burke applied himself to the study of philosophy and history as he pursued a literary career in London.  It now emerges that he deliberately sought to deepen his understanding of the contemporary political world through the philosophical lens developed by his forefathers from the age of Enlightenment.”  For more on this story as well as a link to purchase access to Professor Bourke’s article in The Historical Journal about the discovery, see http://www.qmul.ac.uk/media/news/items/hss/84252.html.

States’ Funding for Universities Declining Swiftly    26 September 2012

The National Science Board has released a report about state funding for research-intensive, doctoral-granting universities between 2002 and 2010 in the United States and found that only seven states experienced no decline: Alaska, Delaware, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Wyoming.  In other states, funding per student from states reduced from 1 percent (New Mexico) to 48 percent (Colorado).

In Florida, the funding per student declined 19 percent during this period, despite the fact that Florida ranks second behind California in the number of public research institutions.  The state ranks thirty-fourth out of all states in terms of student funding, even though enrollment has increased 20 percent.  California’s decline in funding per student may have been greater than Florida’s, but California historically contributed more dollars per student than Florida.  Therefore, even after the decline, California ranks sixth in the country for student funding.

Unfortunately, decreased state funding has resulted in tuition increases that come when family incomes have dropped.  In addition to increased tuition, universities have had to rely more on private funding, which may stifle scientific advances because it steers research to serve the interests of the corporate donors.

Although the NSB study focuses on the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, the implication is the same for the humanities and social sciences.  Although one might attribute recent cuts to the economic crisis, that does not explain the historic trend.  As a result, it is apparent that lawmakers have disregarded the connection between education and overall economic prosperity and the fact that fate does not distribute intellectual capability to children whose parents are privileged or prosperous.  The declining funding trend not only harms the amount and creativity of research in America’s universities but access to higher education.

To read the entire report, see http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/sei/companion2/index.jsp.

The Ballots of Belarus    24 September 2012

The government party of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko won all the parliamentary seats in the election, which had an unbelievable 74.3 percent turnout.  The opposition parties, after facing arrests and restrictions on campaigning, pulled out of the race and urged supporters to boycott the elections.

On the background to the elections, see http://news.yahoo.com/belarus-holds-elections-boycotted-opposition-050852641.html.  For the election results, see http://news.yahoo.com/belarus-elects-entirely-pro-government-parliament-084059471.html and http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Latest-News-Wires/2012/0924/In-Europe-s-sketchiest-election-Belarus-votes-in-entirely-pro-government-parliament-video.

New to CentralEuropeanObserver.com: Guest Pages    23 September 2012

Guest Pages, the latest feature of CentralEuropeanObserver.com, bring to readers the experiences of specialists in a number of fields, including Central European, Balkan, and Eurasian affairs.  This series begins with two contributions.  The first is from a retired American diplomat, Dr. William Harwood, who wrote a brief article about the dangers he and other diplomats faced in light of the death of Ambassador Stevens on 11 September 2012 in Libya during a terrorist attack.  Dr. Stanslav Perkner, a professor of social studies and director of the Library and Learning Center at Humphreys College, Stockton, CA, was the dean of the School of Journalism at Charles University in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in the 1980s and emigrated to America after the 1989 Velvet Revolution.  He has written the first article in a four-part series about his experiences as a student and professor in communist Czechoslovakia and his career as an academic in America.

Merkel and Hollande Call for a Stronger Europe    23 September 2012

To commemorate a speech that Charles de Gaulle made to German youth fifty years ago in Ludwigsburg, Germany, both Angela Merkel and François Hollande addressed German youth on Saturday, 22 September, in that same city.  Both called for strengthening the ties that bind the member states of the European Union in order to tackle the social, economic, and political challenges that the EU faces.  De Gaulle addressed his audience in German, and to commemorate de Gaulle’s gesture, Hollande concluded his speech in German.  For details, see the AP feed at http://finance.yahoo.com/news/german-french-leaders-stronger-europe-needed-130713706.html.

Time Banks in Spain    22 September 2012

Since there is 25 percent unemployment in Spain, many people are turning to time banks, which enable them to trade hours of work for the services of others.  Time banks were the ideas of nineteenth century socialists, and it is not surprising that Spain has renewed the tradition because of the country’s family strong ties and experience with socialism and anarchism.  NPR has more at http://www.npr.org/2012/09/22/161380937/time-banks-help-spaniards-weather-financial-crisis?ft=3&f=1001&sc=nl&cc=nh-20120922.

Reprieve for Greece?    22 September 2012

The troika arranging the Greek bailout, that is, the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, and the European Central Bank, are considering a second so-called haircut involving Greek debt.  That would involve another write-off of some of the Greek debt, but the European member states would be responsible for paying any funds due to the IMF and ECB.  Such an idea may not sit well with the populations of various EU member states that would have to contribute directly to the bailout.  The troika and the Greek government suspended their talks on 21 September after failing to reach an agreement, but discussions will resume in a week.  In the meantime, the Greek government is attempting to find a way of cutting more expenditures and may increase the age of retirement to 67.  A solution to the deal may not come, according to The Telegraph, until after the US presidential election so as not to upset world markets or sway the election.  As strikes in Greece continue, Fotis Kouvelis, who leads the Democratic Left party, told reporters that the troika needs to “stop attacking Greek people,” and added that the “people have their limits.”

See http://euobserver.com/economic/117620; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9558771/Greek-troika-report-delayed-by-US-elections.html; and http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/09/20/us-greece-austerity-troika-idINBRE88J1BZ20120920.

Possible EU Sanctions against Russians    22 September 2012

Members of the European Parliament voted on Thursday, 20 September, to demand that their governments place sanctions on approximately five dozen individuals involved with the murder of Sergei Magnitsky (1972-2009), an attorney who died in police custody after he made claims that there was widespread corruption and embezzlement in the Russian government.  The Magnitsky case also has a role in the American presidential elections.  Barack Obama has no intention of aggravating American-Soviet relations, and Mitt Romney is calling for passage of the so-called Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act in Congress.  See more at http://euobserver.com/political/117619.

From Russia with Love: Diamonds Are Forever    21 September 2012

Russian scientists announced that a Siberian meteorite crater contains a large reserve of diamonds that can be used for industrial purposes.  The Soviets knew about the site in the 1970s but kept the information classified, even though they had deemed it more profitable to manufacture synthetic diamonds than to exploit the site.  The AP feed is at http://news.yahoo.com/russia-boasts-huge-diamond-field-201301156--finance.html.

US Releases Papers Regarding Katyń    21 September 2012

Recently, the United States government declassified papers regarding the Soviet massacre in the spring of 1940 in the Katyń Forest of approximately Polish 4,400 officers.  In 1943 the Germans, who invaded Russia in 1941, announced that they had discovered the bodies, but there was no official confirmation as to whether the Germans or the Soviets had killed the men until 1990, when Mikhail S. Gorbachev, then president of the Soviet Union and general secretary of the Communist party, admitted that the NKVD was responsible for the act and officially apologized for it.

The US National Archives recently announced that the Germans had permitted two American POWs to see the bodies and to write reports to US military authorities.  The two men reasoned that the Soviets must have been responsible for the deaths because of the extent to which the bodies had decayed.  The Americans, like the British, did not make an issue of the incident during the war because they did not want to increase tensions with their Soviet allies.

National Archives records regarding the Katyń massacre are at http://www.archives.gov/research/foreign-policy/katyn-massacre/selected-records.pdf.  See also http://www.archives.gov/research/foreign-policy/katyn-massacre/ and http://www.archives.gov/legislative/guide/house/chapter-22-select-katyn-forest-massacre.html.  The announcement of the release of the documents is at http://www.archives.gov/research/foreign-policy/katyn-massacre/.

Padraic Kenney, professor of history and director of the Polish Studies Center and the Russian and East European Institute at Indiana  University, commented on the newly-available documents at http://hnn.us/articles/katy%C5%84-history-written-blood-and-tears.

Will Slovenia Block Croatian Entry to the EU?    21 September 2012

Slovenia is threatening to reject Croatia’s bid to enter the European Union on 1 July 2013 because of disputes regarding the bankrupt Ljubljanska Banka, which owed €172 million to depositors in Croatia.  The Slovenian government took responsibility for the sum as part of the country’s debt, but it is demanding a settlement on the issue before it approves Croatia’s bid to join the EU.  Slovenia delayed negotiations regarding Croatia entry into the EU in 2008 because of a maritime border dispute that the United Nations now is arbitrating.  Slovenia also blocked EU sanctions against Belarus because a Slovenian construction firm had a contract to build a hotel in Minsk.  Many EU representatives resent Slovenia’s actions because it appears that Slovenia is tying EU decisions to domestic concerns.  Read more at http://euobserver.com/enlargement/117629.

Prisoner Abuse in Georgia    21 September 2012

The president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, suspended prison guards after a leaked video provided evidence of torture and rape in the country’s prisons.  The affair brought protests throughout the country and harsh words from the party challenging Saakashvili in the upcoming elections.  The affair also brought condemnation from the EU and NATO and raised doubts about whether Georgia is prepared to join either organization in the future.  See more at http://euobserver.com/foreign/117627.

An Update on Politics in Ukraine    21 September 2012

Susan Walker, writing for The Independent, has presented an overview of the situation in Ukraine with respect to internal and foreign affairs in light of next month’s parliamentary elections.  Read the entire article at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/moscow-hopes-eu-criticism-will-push-ukraine-back-into-its-orbit-8143137.html?origin=internalSearch.

“The Past Is Not Past”: Timothy Garton Ash Interview    19 September 2012

New Eastern Europe has interviewed Timothy Garton Ash, Professor of European Studies at Oxford University.  Ash observed the revolutions of 1989 in East-Central Europe and in the past few years has begun to focus his research on the issue of freedom, particularly free speech.  The interview looks at his past and present work and reveals his opinion about present relations among some of the states of East-Central Europe and Eastern Europe.  Upon commenting about the recent difficulties between the Poles and Lithuanians as well as the Czechs and Germans, he remarked: “Here, you see that the past is not past.”  His comment sums up the importance of studying not only the history of Central Europe, Eastern Europe, and the Balkans but history in general.  The interview is available at http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/430.

Five Reasons Why the European Union Will Not Fail    16 September 2012

C. Fred Bergsten, the director of the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics, located in Washington, DC, has outlined five reasons the European Union will not fail.  First, the Europeans are cooperating to solve the economic crisis and show no sign of abandoning the fight.  Second, a Greek departure from the euro would not doom the common currency, even though it would be chaotic, because other countries would redouble their efforts to avoid a similar experience.  Third, German taxpayers would bail out faltering European economies, contrary to claims in some quarters, because it is the only way to protect German investments in those countries.  Fourth, austerity measures will not result in extremism because even in countries that have enacted them, the political center has remained strong.  Fifth, the crisis with the euro will not have a negative impact on the American economy or politics because the effect of the downturn in Europe has reduced the American GDP by perhaps only 1 percent, moderate growth in countries like China and India helps sustain a slow but steady economic growth, and the crisis in Europe strengthens the dollar.

Bergsten’s remarks are concise answers to eurosceptics and suggest another reason why there is so much discussion in Europe, America, and elsewhere about the impending doom of the euro and the European Union.  Certain individuals, investment firms, and political parties have much to gain form a collapse of the Euro or a reversal in the progress the Europeans have made toward political unity.  Confidence in the US dollar would increase dramatically.  In Europe, the British pound would benefit from the end of the euro, and a new German currency would appear as one of the strongest on the continent.  Financial investment firms in Manhattan, The City, and Frankfurt would stand to profit from an economic crisis in Europe, and it appears as though some individuals and think tanks in various quarters hope to nudge Europe to the brink by eroding public confidence for opportunistic reasons.  Finally, the eurosceptic parties, which have had steady support but have not seen clear victories, anticipate winning strong majorities were their dire predictions to come true.

Bergsten’s comments are in the Star Tribune at http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/169241736.html?refer=y.

Fake Citizenship Papers Through Romania    15 September 2012

Like many European states, Romania allows individuals with Romanian ancestry to gain Romanian citizenship, which enables an individual to live and work anywhere in the European Union.  A gray market has arisen in Moldova, where intermediaries prepare all the necessary documents, including police records and archival records, to cut through the bureaucratic red tape in Romania.  Unfortunately, some of the applicants are without the proper ancestral ties, but their paid contacts can prepare the applications using false information.  The Romanian government has processed tens of thousands of applicants since joining the EU and has approved most of them.  The precise numbers are unknown, but the European Fund for Investigative Journalism, which investigated the matter, claims that while there has been some abuse, Romania is no more of a mill for illicitly acquiring EU citizenship than other countries with similar citizenship programs, including the UK and France.  The full report is at http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/how-to-buy-an-eu-citizenship.

Pussy Riot’s Theology    14 September 2012

Anyone following the Pussy Riot trial in Russia is aware that the punk rock group protests the close ties between the Putin Administration and the Orthodox Church.  In a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Timothy Beal, a professor of religion at Case Western Reserve University , explains that the group is not atheistic but maintains a complex belief structure that includes a strong component of activism.  For the entire article, see http://chronicle.com/article/Pussy-Riots-Theology/134398/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en.

Estonian Wight Loss Advertisement    12 September 2012

An Estonian newspaper prank advertisement in the humor section recently featured pictures of emaciated inmates of a concentration camp with the caption “One, Two, Three… Dr Mengele slimming pills work wonders for you!  There were no thickset people in Buchenwald!”  The newspaper, Eesti Ekspress, explained that it merely had attempted to make light of an advertisement for a gas company that featured a picture of the famous “Arbeit macht frei” sign at Auschwitz Concentration Camp with the caption “Gas heating—flexible, convenient, and effective.”  The gas company had pulled the advertisement and had apologized for running it.  Jewish groups are condemning the newspaper for being insensitive, and many are faulting Estonian society for continued anti-Semitism.  For more on the story and an image of the advertisement, see http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2201225/Outrage-Estonian-newspaper-prints-mock-advert-diet-pills-featuring-pictures-emaciated-concentration-camp-victims.html?ito=feeds-newsxml.

Methanol Sold as Alcohol Kills at Least 20 in Central Europe    12 September 2012

Illegally produced alcohol has killed 19 people and injured two dozen others mainly in the Czech Republic but also in Slovakia and Poland.  Suspects have been arrested in two Moravian cities, Zlín in the south and Havířov in the north.  An AP press release on the story is at http://news.yahoo.com/methanol-kills-19-injures-24-central-europe-161534816.html.

UPDATE: On 13 September, as the death toll from the methanol rises, Radio Prague reports that the eighteenth victim in the Czech Republic has died and coroners are revising autopsies in light of the methanol problem.  Police also have found a warehouse in Zlín with illegal alcohol and counterfeit labels and seals for alcohol.  See http://www.radio.cz/en/news.

UPDATE: On 14 September, the Ministry of Health in the Czech Republic has banned the sale of beverage in any form that contains more than 20 percent alcohol in an effort to prevent more deaths from methanol poisoning.  See the AP feed at http://news.yahoo.com/czech-bans-spirit-sales-amid-wave-poisonings-200238783.html.

Bulgaria or Macedonia?    12 September 2012

Those familiar with Balkan history are aware of the controversy regarding Macedonia.  In the past, the Bulgarians have claimed that Macedonian is simply a version of Bulgarian, while many Macedonians maintain that it is a separate language.  Between the two world wars, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, which came into existence in 1893, assassinated anyone who stood in the way of Macedonia’s unification with Bulgaria.  One of the first famous assassinations was that of the Bulgarian prime minister, Aleksandar Stamboliyski (1879-1923), which the IMRO carried out with others wanting to weaken the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union.  It also simultaneously assassinated Alexander I (1888-1934, reigned 1929-1934) of Yugoslavia and the French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou (1862-1934).

The controversy between Macedonia and Bulgaria remain, although on a much subdued level.  Most recently, Bulgarians have complained that Macedonians are hijacking Bulgarian history by presenting Bulgarian literary accomplishments as Macedonian.

Iran’s Press TV has a very good basic report on the current issue at http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2012/09/02/259523/bulgaria-macedonia-tensions-high/.  An announcement about the exhibition from Macedonia is at http://www.mia.com.mk/default.aspx?vId=96766266&lId=2.  An example of the Bulgarian response appears at http://www.focus-fen.net/index.php?id=f3007.

German Court Approves Bond Plan    12 September 2012

The German Federal Constitutional Court has deemed as legal the intended contributions of Germany to the European Central Bank bonds to fund the European Stability Mechanism.  The German president, Joachim Gauk, has indicated that he will sign the legislation as soon as possible.  Read the NPR report at http://www.npr.org/2012/09/12/160988493/german-court-rejects-calls-to-block-eu-bailout-fund?ft=3&f=1001&sc=nl&cc=nh-20120912.

Kosovo Independent    12 September 2012

On 10 September, the EU, US, and Turkey, all overseeing Kosovo’s progress in recent years, have ended their supervision and have granted the country full independence.  The Serbian government refuses to acknowledge Kosovo, and the Serbs living in the northern part of the country also reject the claim of Kosovo independence.  More information is at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-19550809 and http://euobserver.com/enlargement/117486.

Black Market Harms Central European Economies    12 September 2012

The World Bank has released a report claiming that the black market in Central Europe and the Balkans is harming the economies of various states.  It notes that up to one-third of Bulgaria’s GDP is in the form of the shadow economy, and the percentages for Romania, Lithuania, and Estonia are close.  Slovakia is at 17 percent, and Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, and Slovenia are between the two extremes.   The World Bank recommends that these countries restructure the tax system and provide social security measures and job protection as a means of encouraging regular employment.  See http://euobserver.com/economic/117498 and the report at http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/2012/09/10/getting-people-in-from-the-shadow-in-eastern-europe.

EU Components for Belarusian Spy Planes    12 September 2012

There are reports that products made in the EU, including weapons, have been used to control protests in Belarus.  Some of the technology includes parts that went into building drones to monitor and disperse crowds.  Read more at http://euobserver.com/foreign/117489.

Move Over Microsoft and Google–Now There’s Gazprom    8 September 2012

The European Commission is considering whether Gazprom, which supplies natural gas to many European Union Member States and more than one-third of the EU’s total gas supply, has engaged in price fixing and other unfair practices.  Companies like Microsoft and Google have undergone similar investigations, but the government of a world power does not have controlling interest in either company.  The largest investor in Gazprom, however, is the Russian state.

Despite Gazprom’s clout and the fact that it can count on the support of the administration of Vladimir Putin, the public is sensitive to bad news, and the day after the investigation began, Gazprom stocks dropped on the Moscow market.  In the end, the EU’s best weapon might be bad publicity about Gazprom and the threat of lower profits.  If the European Commission determines that Gazprom has acted unfairly, it could require the company to renegotiate its contracts, charge Gazprom a fine, or negotiate some other type of settlement.  In the past, the EU has managed to wrest concessions from Gazprom and may do so again.

In a statement, Gazprom denied any wrongdoing.  The Russian ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, also dismissed the investigation, denied that Gazprom has broken any international law, and cited politics as the reason for the probe.  He mocked the European Commission, stating that it "can look into anything it wants: whether there is life on Mars or whether there are some irregularities in Google or Gazprom or Microsoft.”  When he noted that Russia wants to avoid a “gas war” with the EU, one must wonder whether Chizhov’s remark was meant as a threat.  No doubt, Chizhov would prefer that the EU view Gazprom in light of the opening words of the 2009 unofficial anthem of Gazprom: “Don't bother trying, you'll never ever find a surer friend than Gazprom.”

For information about the Gazprom song, composed and performed by Vladimir Tumayev, the former president of a subsidiary of Gazprom, soccer player, and soccer official, see http://observers.france24.com/content/20090119-gazprom-extremely-kitsch-anthem-russia-energy-giant-vladimir%20tumayev or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGbI87tyr_4.

On the Gazprom investigation, see the Wall Street Journal article at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444273704577635472004750402.html?mod=googlenews_wsj and the New York Times article at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/06/business/global/gazprom-objects-to-european-antitrust-inquiry.html.

Euroscepticism on the Decline    7 September 2012

A recent poll shows that eurosceptism has declined in Europe, even in Britain, which is the country whose citizens are most cynical about the EU.  The poll also shows that Europeans believe job creation is more important than austerity.  See http://euobserver.com/news/117473.

Archaeologists Close to Finding the Tomb of Richard III    7 September 2012

In Leicester, England, archaeologists have found the Church of the Grey Friars, which is said to be the resting place of Richard III (1452-1485, reigned 1483-1485), who died at the Battle of Bosworth Field during the Wars of the Roses (1455-1485).  Read more at http://www2.le.ac.uk/news/blog/2012/september/search-for-richard-iii-confirms-they-have-located-the-long-lost-church-of-the-grey-friars.

Soap Opera Material: Hungary, Azerbaijan, and Armenia     5 September 2012

Act One: Armenia and Azerbaijan for decades have had a dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region in Azerbaijan near the Armenian border where the population is Armenian.  Tension between the two countries, both of which had been in the Soviet Union, is high.

Act Two: At a NATO seminar in 2004 in Budapest, Hungary, an Azerbaijani lieutenant, Ramil Safarov, entered the bedroom of an Armenian soldier, Gurgen Markarian, who allegedly had insulted Safarov, and slaughtered him with an ax, striking him 16 times and nearly decapitating him.

Act Three: the Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliyev, who succeeded his father as president in 2003 and who has removed term limits on the presidency, is about to stand for reelection next year.  Recently, there have been protests against Aliyev and restrictions on the freedom of the press.

Act Four: Safarov, the ax murderer, was to spend 25 years in a Hungarian prison for his crime, but the international situation may have worked in his favor.  On 31 August, Hungarian authorities sent Safarov to Azerbaijan, where President Aliyev pardoned him, presented him with a new apartment, promoted him to major, and gave him back pay for defending Azerbaijani honor, as one official described it.

Who Done It?: The motive for the killing might be apparent, but the reason the Hungarian government released Safarov is unclear.  There is speculation that the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, sealed the deal when President Aliyev promised that Azerbaijan would purchase Hungarian bonds.  That would provide money for the Hungarian government, which is under pressure from the EU for weakening its democratic institutions and has had difficulties securing loans.

Act Five: Condemnation has focused on Aliyev and has come from some surprising quarters.  The United States, Russia, and the European Union have expressed their concern about Aliyev’s actions.  Armenia, understandably, is furious, and angry crowds of Armenians have pelted the Hungarian embassy with eggs.  In an odd twist, Hungary also has condemned Aliyev, claiming that he had promised to keep Safarov in prison.

Act Six: The script writer is still at work, but one of the scenarios is that increased tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan ends with a war over Nagorno-Karabakh that invites Russian interference in the affairs of the two countries.

Sources: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/world/europe/pardon-reignites-azerbaijan-armenia-tensions.html and http://euobserver.com/foreign/117404.

EU Pressures on Serbia    5 September 2012

As a precursor to EU membership, the European Union wants Serbia to improve relations with Kosovo, even though Serbia need not recognize the country.  Otherwise, Serbia must tackle unemployment, fight organized crime and corruption, and guarantee democratic institutions (recently, Serbia gave its parliament powers over the country’s central bank).  Herman Van Rompuy, the EU Council president, presented the punch list while meeting with the Serbian prime minister, Ivica Dačić.  See http://euobserver.com/enlargement/117436.

Bulgaria and Poland Delay Adopting the Euro     5 September 2012

The Bulgarian prime minister, Boyko Borisov, and the country’s finance minister, Simeon Djankov, have announced that Bulgaria will delay joining the eurozone, despite the fact that Bulgaria has met the conditions for adopting the euro and that Borisov had predicted in early 2010 that Bulgaria would do so.  Borisov claims that the situation in the eurozone is too unstable because of the debt crisis.  The Polish finance minister, Radosław Sikorski, cited similar concerns when he announced in an interview that Poland also is postponing entry into the eurozone.  The populations of both Poland and Bulgaria fear that they may have more to lose than to gain by adopting the euro at this time.  Poland is the third fastest growing economy in the EU, despite projected slower growth this year.  Bulgaria has one of the lowest national debts in the EU.

For more on this story, see http://euobserver.com/economic/117415.

Slovakia’s Strong Economy    3 September 2012

Slovakia has increased its GDP by 2.7 percent, while other European Union countries stagnate.  The reason is that Slovakia has invested in electronics and vehicle production to such an extent that it is now the largest per capita vehicle producer in the world.  The increase in vehicle production over the past year has been 42 percent and 10.1 percent in electronics manufacturing.  As a result, exports outstrip imports, and Slovakia has a healthy balance of trade.  The trend is likely to continue because of continued improvements to production and other factors, despite some slower growth that will result from the general gloomy economic situation in the EU.  The analysis is from a report on Slovakia’s situation by Vladimír Vaňo, an economist at Volksbank Slovensko.

The strong overall performance of the Slovak economy and the health of the vehicle and electronic sectors mask the 13.8 percent unemployment in the country.  The difficulty is that manufacturing is concentrated in certain areas.  For example, Bratislava (Volkswagen), Žilina (PSA Peugeot Citroen), and Trnava (KIA) are key vehicle production cities, and all are located in the western part of the country.  Smaller facilities, often concentrating on supplying parts for vehicle assembly, are scattered throughout the country, with some concentrated in Vráble, which is just east of Trnava, and Košice, which is in the eastern part of the country.  Most of Slovakia’s unemployment is in the rural areas.

In comparison with Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary are in recession.  Slovakia’s use of the euro is one of the factors that attract European investors looking for cheap yet qualified labor (Vaňo cites that in his report).  The Czech Republic continues to use the crown, and its president, Václav Klaus, is a notorious eurosceptic..  Hungary’s deteriorating democracy makes investors hesitant, and it continues to use the forint.  Poland, once a bright spot in the in the constellation of EU economies, is beginning to dim.  It also is not in the eurozone and continues to use the złoty.

More on Vaňo’s report is available in the Financial Times article at http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2012/08/28/slovakia-gains-as-manufacturers-transfer-jobs-from-western-to-central-europe/#axzz25PLSvmvv.  For information on Slovakia’s vehicle manufacturing, see the 2010 report available at https://www.unido.org/foresight/rwp/dokums_pres/automotive_industry_slovakia_263.pdf.

Greece: The Perils of Privatization    2 September 2012

The Greek government must privatize many of the firms it owns in order to reduce its debt in the next few years and meet the requirements of the European Union bailout agreement.  Some voices, however, are claiming that strategy is faulty.  See the NPR story at http://www.npr.org/2012/09/01/160422136/for-sale-greek-government-assets-slightly-used?ft=3&f=1001&sc=nl&cc=nh-20120901.

Czech Hops Production Down    2 September 2012

The Czech Hops Growers’ Union reported a 26 percent decline in hops production this year as a result of poor weather.  Since the Czechs export 80 percent of their hops, which are considered the finest in the world for beer production, one might expect an increase in the price of beer.  Nevertheless, the experts contend that bumper crops in the previous years will mitigate any price increase.  See the AP feed at http://news.yahoo.com/czech-hops-harvest-down-26-pct-123828888--finance.html.

Ukraine’s Supreme Court Upholds Tymoshenko’s Conviction    29 August 2012

Yulia Tymoshenko will serve her full sentence of seven years that began in October 2011 when she was convicted of abuse of power while serving as prime minister.  The Ukrainian Supreme Court today upheld the lower court verdict, a decision that has brought criticism from Tymoshenko's supporters in Ukraine.  Tymoshenko has taken her case to the European Court for Human Rights.  See the AP feed at http://news.yahoo.com/ukraines-highest-court-upholds-tymoshenko-verdict-082101744.html.

Parliament Reinstates Romania’s President    27 August 2012

Romania’s parliament reinstated the country’s president today after the Constitutional Court voted to nullify the recent referendum on his removal.  The AP feed is at http://news.yahoo.com/impeachment-romanias-president-overturned-162359469.html.

Pussy Riot Members in Exile   26 August 2012

The all-female band Pussy Riot has confirmed that two of its members have fled Russia to avoid arrest in connection with the group’s protest against the Putin administration in February in a Moscow cathedral.  A Russian court sentenced three of the members to two years in prison for their spontaneous performance in the church, and the two who are in self-imposed exile have vowed to engage feminists abroad in order to stage further protests.  See the AP feed at http://news.yahoo.com/2-pussy-riot-members-flee-russia-escape-arrest-103249589.html.

Internet Donations for a Tesla Museum    24 August 2012

Efforts are underway to purchase and renovate the laboratory of Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) on Long Island, NY.  Tesla, who invented alternating current (AC) and had nearly 300 patents in his name, worked on wirelessly transmitting electricity at his Wardencliffe laboratory on Long Island between 1900 and 1917.  The building is now vacant, and Tesla enthusiasts fear that it will be torn down to build a high rise.  As a result, the web site The Oatmeal is involved with raising money to purchase the property, have it listed as a historic structure, and convert it into a museum.  So far, Internet contributions and New York state grants have raised enough money to match the other offer for the building.  The question now is whether greed or historic preservation will win.  For the NPR article about the campaign to save Tesla’s laboratory, see http://www.npr.org/2012/08/24/159925435/zap-cartoonist-raises-1-million-for-tesla-museum?ft=3&f=1001&sc=nl&cc=nh-20120824.  The web sites containing information about donating to the creation of the museum are at http://www.indiegogo.com/teslamuseum, http://theoatmeal.com/comics/tesla, and http://www.teslasciencecenter.org/.

Alleged Nazi War Criminal László Csizsik-Csatáry    24 August 2012

Documents recently discovered in Košice, Slovakia, provide new evidence against the alleged Nazi war criminal, László Csizsik-Csatáry.  During the war, Csatáry was the commanding police officer in the Jewish ghetto in Košice, where he allegedly committed atrocities against Jews and was involved in transporting more than 15,000 to their deaths at Auschwitz.  After the war, a Czechoslovak court sentenced him to death in abstentia.  He had fled to Canada, and after he lost his citizenship there in the late 1990s, he secretly returned to Hungary.  The Simon Wiesenthal Center is hoping that a new trial will convict and sentence Csatáry, who has claimed he is innocent of all charges.  See http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4270422,00.html.

Greek Government Seeking Extension on Bailout Terms    23 August 2012

This week, the Greek prime minister, Antonis Samaras, is visiting European capitals to negotiate a new time schedule that will provide for budget cuts over the next four years instead of two years and will postpone the payment for Greece’s first loan to 2020.  The extensions would help the Greek government ease the austerity measures that have frustrated so many voters.  They also may inspire more confidence in Greece’s future and help ease its unemployment rate, which is more than 23 percent.  See http://euobserver.com/economic/117238.  Unfortunately for Mr. Samaras, Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg and the head of the Euro Group that controls the euro, indicated today that nothing can be done until the EU Commission, European Central Bank, and IMF release their so-called troika report in late September that assesses Greece’s progress in the area of fiscal austerity and that determines whether Greece will get the next €130 billion in bailout funds.  See http://euobserver.com/economic/117302.

Prague’s Gay Pride Parade    22 August 2012

On Saturday, 18 August, about 10,000 gathered to participate in the Prague Pride parade to support tolerance for the gay and homosexual community.  The parade culminated a week of events, and marchers ended their trek through the historic city on Střelecký ostrov, an island in the Vltava River.  There groups and vendors set up stands to supply information, food, and products, and two stages supplied entertainment.

The parade had its detractors.  The president of the republic, Václav Klaus, had condemned the event earlier, and on the day of the parade, the president’s spokesman reiterated his opinion (many contend that Klaus is a closet homosexual).  There were some who marched against homosexuality, but there were no major incidents.  Before the steps that descended to Střelecký ostrov from the Most Legií (Legionnaires’ Bridge) stood conservative Christians who passed out literature announcing that the cure for homosexuality lies in the Bible.

Among the groups which set up information booths on the island was LogosCR.cz, an organization of Christian gays, lesbians, and those who sympathize with them whose leaflets announced: “Gay, lesbian, and a believer?  It works.  Thank God!” (Gay, lesba a věřící?  Jde to.  Díky Bohu!).  Other booths included Charlie, the group supporting homosexuality at Prague’s Charles University, and the Green Party, which passed out stickers in support of equality for homosexuals.

The atmosphere was festive, and some individuals sported colorful costumes that evoked the rainbow of colors that is symbolic of the gay movement.  Others were sunning themselves along the banks of the island.  Among those who marched and milled around the island were several noted individuals who were openly homosexual and a number of heterosexual supporters of homosexual rights.

For more on the march, see http://www.radio.cz/en/section/curraffrs/second-prague-pride-festival-draws-thousands-in-czech-capital and http://praguemonitor.com/2012/08/20/thousands-march-prague-pride-parade.  On Klaus's opposition to the parade, see http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/16/world/europe/16iht-prague16.html.

Above: Prague Castle with Střelecký ostrov during the parade.
Left: A participant in the Prague Pride festival in costume.

Photos by Daniel E. Miller

Romanian President Survives Referendum    22 August 2012

Romania's Constitutional Court voted to reinstate the country's president, Traian Basescu, after the court suspended his activities in the wake of a referendum on whether the president should remain in office.  Although most of those who voted in the referendum wanted to remove the president, but the number of voters was insufficient.  Basescu will continue to face the fact that many voters fault him for having backed wage cuts and increased taxes in 2009 in order to receive €20 billion from the IMF, the EU, and the World Bank.  See http://euobserver.com/economic/117236.

Pussy Riot Sentenced to Two Years    22 August 2012

The members of the Russian band, Pussy Riot, received a two-year sentence for hooliganism linked to "religious hatred" for their spontaneous performance in a Moscow cathedral.  The conviction has prompted protests in support of Pussy Riot throughout Europe.  See the NPR report at http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/08/17/158976733/coming-up-women-in-russian-punk-band-to-be-sentenced?ft=3&f=1001&sc=nl&cc=nh-20120817.

Mixed News for Central European and Balkan Economies    22 August 2012

Slovenia is facing poor credit ratings as its economy slips deeper into recession and its government seeks means to bolster its popularity.  Meanwhile, Romania is pulling out of its recession, although the economies of the Czech Republic and Hungary are slowing down as part of a European-wide recession.  Political difficulties in Hungary and Romania have contributed tot he economic problems.  On a more optimistic note, prospects in Slovakia and Bulgaria are good.  Slovakia's economy grew at 0.7 percent and Bulgaria's economy by 0.18 percent for the first quarter of 2012.  Experts in Bulgaria expect the country's economy to expand nearly 2 percent in 2013.

On Slovenia, see http://www.balkans.com/open-news.php?uniquenumber=153644.  See also http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/08/14/uk-cee-economy-idUKBRE87D0DB20120814 and http://www.focus-fen.net/index.php?id=n285091.

Tymoshenko Barred from Ukrainian Elections    22 August 2012

Because Yulia Tymoshenko is in prison after being convicted for corruption, the Ukrainian authorities have refused to allow her to stand for election to parliament.  Although individuals in the European Union have voiced their criticism, the European Commission agrees with the decision, even though it takes exception to the entire legal procedure against Tymoshenko.  See http://euobserver.com/foreign/117221.

False Border Crossing Tricked Escapees    22 August 2012

Czechoslovak authorities starting in the late 1940s and continuing until 1951 created a false Czechoslovak-German border in several places near the actual border to trick would-be escapees.  Unsuspecting victims thought they had crossed the border once they saw American flags and had interviews with individuals they thought were American soldiers.  In reality, they soldiers were secret police agents who gathered information on contacts who had helped the individual trying to flee.  Everyone involved with the escape was arrested and received harsh sentences.  In an interview with the Czech on-line newspaper iDNES.cz, Igor Lukeš, a historian at Boston University, explained that at least two of the individuals involved with the so-called Operation Stone still are alive and living very comfortable lives.  He called on the Czech legal system to bring the individuals to justice because of the "psychological and physical" abuse the victims endured.  For more, see http://zpravy.idnes.cz/policie-vysetruje-provokaci-stb-dos-/domaci.aspx?c=A120808_072853_domaci_jj and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/czechrepublic/9461761/Soviet-era-ruse-that-tricked-escapees-into-think-they-had-fled-Czechoslovakia.html.

Australia Court Refuses to Extradite Alleged Nazi War Criminal    22 August 2012

Reasoning that no law against war crimes existed at the time, the Australian High Court refused to extradite 90-year-old Charles Zentai to Hungary for allegedly beating a Jew to death in 1944 for not wearing a star of David.  See http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/2012/08/15/australia-won-send-war-crimes-suspect-hungary/QJQsZx4diZfaOlpvyoVd8O/story.html.

Slovak Overseeing Greek Bailout Resigns    13 August 2012

The Slovak representative of the European Union who oversees Greek privatization efforts has resigned because of links with a corruption scandal that has rocked Slovakia for several months.  See http://euobserver.com/institutional/117217.

EU Decided Not Retaliate against Belarus    13 August 2012

European Union diplomats have agreed not to retaliate against Belarus by pulling out their diplomats, yet they stand behind Sweden, whose diplomats Belarus expelled over the teddy bear issue, as reported in the last posting. For more, see http://euobserver.com/foreign/117210.

Unbearable Messages over Belarus    10 August 2012

Sweden has sent home the ambassador from Belarus after Belarus expelled the Swedish ambassador for supporting human rights in Belarus.  European Union diplomats are meeting today to determine whether to remove all their ambassadors.  The difficulties began when an advertising agency in Sweden flew over Belarusand dropped teddy bears with parachutes and messages calling for freedom of speech.  Belarus then threatened to shoot down any further unauthorized flights.  See http://euobserver.com/foreign/117189 and http://euobserver.com/foreign/117154.

Romanian Judges under Pressure    10 August 2012

Judges on the Romanian constitutional court have received death threats, and the country's prime minister, Victor Ponta, has called for the removal of certain judges because of their decisions on other matters.  On 31 August, the court will decide on the validity of a referendum on 29 August regarding the country's president.  The majority of voters want to remove the president, but the number of those who went to the polls was lower than the 50 percent the constitution requires for the vote to be valid.  The European Union justice commissioner is following the developments and is concerned about threats to the independence of Romania's justice system.  See http://euobserver.com/justice/117188.

Judge Postpones Decision in Romania    3 August 2012

A judge in Romania has postponed until September the decision of wheter last Sunday's referendum is valid.  More on the story is at http://euobserver.com/political/117140.

Pussy Riot Trial   1 August 2012

The group Pussy Riot went on trial in Moscow for hooliganism for their spontaneous performance in February 2012 in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior that mocked church ritual.  NPR coverage of the story is at http://www.npr.org/blogs/therecord/2012/07/30/157606363/feminist-punk-band-imprisoned-for-five-months-gets-next-gig-russian-courtroom.

Czech Republic Represents US in Syria    1 August 2012

The Czech Republic will represent the interests of the United States in Syria after Poland, which had been fulfilling that task, pulled its diplomats out of the country.  The announcement appears at http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/48582-czech-republic-to-represent-u-s-consular-interests-in-syria.

Statements from 1935 Found under Austrian Monument    31 July 2012

Researchers have unearthed two statements in capsules beneath the statue of the unknown soldier in Vienna.  One is a pacifist message from the sculptor Alfons Riedel (1901-1969), while the second from the sculptor Wilhelm Frass (1888-1968), praises the notion of a greater Germany under the Nazis.  The sculptors placed the messages under the monument in the Heldenplatz in 1935, three years before the Anschluß.  The BBC report on the discovery is at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18909648.

Romney's Reception in Poland    31 July 2012

While on a visit to Poland, Mitt Romney received the endorsement of Poland's former president and one-time dissident, Lech Wałęsa.  Meanwhile, Solidarity (Solidarność), the non-Communist union Wałęsa once headed, disavowed its former leader's action because of Romney's anti-union stance.  Read more at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/30/polands-solidarity-romney-visit_n_1720054.html?utm_hp_ref=elections-2012.  For more information on Romney's visit to Poland, including his remarks about how Poland's free market capitalism and budget discipline make Poland a model for other countries, see http://euobserver.com/19/117120

Romanian President Claims Victory    31 July 2012

The Romanian president, Traian Basescu, is claiming a victory in his political struggle against Prime Minister Victor Ponta when fewer than 50 percent of the electorate turned out to vote in a referendum against Basescu continuing in power.  The infighting will continue, however, because a large number of Romanians who support Ponta want to see the resignation of Basescu, who is accused of cronyism and who is unpopular because of budget cuts.  See the reports at http://euobserver.com/843/117085 and http://euobserver.com/843/117094.

Barroso Pressures the Greeks    31 July 2012

The president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, has warned the Greeks that they must deliver on their promises connected with the bailout, and he is discontented with the negative comments from other EU states.  Read more at http://euobserver.com/19/117078For an update, see http://euobserver.com/19/117113.

Antonín Holý (1936-2012)    31 July 2012

The famous Czech chemist, Antonín Holý, died on 16 July.  He was the director of the Czech Academy of Sciences and was the creater of several key antiretroviral drugs, including Viread Hepsera and Vistide Truvada, that doctors use for the treatment of HIV.  More about Holý is at http://www.radio.cz/en/section/curraffrs/groundbreaking-chemist-antonin-holy-dies-at-75.

Sunday's Referendum in Romania    26 July 2012

A report on the latest developments in Romania ahead of Sunday's referendum on the president is at http://euobserver.com/843/117069.

Romania’s Continued Defection from Democracy    23 July 2012

The EU Commission has presented Romania with an 11-point list in order to restore the country’s democratic processes, but the Romanian government has dismissed the EU demands.  An article on the list is available at http://euobserver.com/843/116977, and the list that the newspaper Gandul obtained is at http://storage0.dms.mpinteractiv.ro/media/1/186/3927/9859699/4/b9hxhkqi.jpg.  In its continuing drift away from democracy, the Romanian parliament voted to remove the power of the country’s constitutional court to rule on internal parliamentary matters.  See http://euobserver.com/22/117019 and http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,16108944,00.html.  In another development related to Romania, EU officials have charged, Adrian Severin, a Romanian member of the European Parliament, with embezzling €436,000 from the EU budget.  He also is under investigation for taking bribes.  Read more at http://euobserver.com/22/116986.  For additional information regarding the situation in Romania and the problem with organized crime and corruption in Bulgaria, see http://euobserver.com/22/117008.

Bulgarian Bombing    23 July 2012

Information from NPR about the bombing on 19 July of a bus carrying Israelis in Bulgaria is at http://www.npr.org/2012/07/19/157019813/bulgaria-bombing-most-likely-suicide-attack?ft=3&f=1001&sc=nl&cc=nh-20120719.

Romania Faces Delays in Its Bid to Enter Schengen    16 July 2012

Because of the political struggle between the prime minister and president of Romania, the European Union justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, indicated that there may be delays in Romania's bid to enter the Schengen zone.  Like his counterpart in Hungary, Viktor Orbán, the Romanian prime minister, Victor Ponta, has been replacing key figures in the state with loyalists from his own party and hasentered into a power struggle with Romania's president.  For more, see http://euobserver.com/22/116941.

Hitler's Protection for a Jew    16 July 2012

Ernst Hess, a judge and who once was Adolf Hitler's commanding officer during the First World War, sought protection from deportation as a Jew, and a 1940 letter from Heinrich Himmler indicates that Hitler honored Hess's request. Eventually, the protection was revoked, but because Hess's wife was not Jewish, he survived the war by working as a forced laborer. After the war, Hess was head of the Federal Railway Authority in Frankfurt. The Reuters feed on the story is at http://news.yahoo.com/hitler-protected-jewish-ww1-veteran-letter-120004045.html.

Interview with Zhukov's Biographer    10 July 2012

The History News Network contributor, Aaron Leonard, interviewed Geoffrey Roberts, the author of a new biography of the Soviet General Georgy K. Zhukov  (1896-1974).  It is available at http://hnn.us/articles/russias-architect-victory-interview-geoffrey-roberts-georgy-zhukov.  Random House released Roberts's book, Stalin's General: The Life of Georgy Zhukov, in the last few weeks.

Challenges to Democracy in Romania    7 July 2012.

The Commission of the European Union has warned Romania that it may risk breaching the rule of law in the ruling party's efforts to remove Traian Basescu from the presidency. The prime minister, Victor Ponta and his Social-Liberal Union, which is a combination of the Social Democratic, National Liberal, and Conservative parties, have flaunted the rulings of Romania's Constitutional Court, have removed the ombudsman, and have changed the procedures for referendums in their efforts to oust Basescu, whom they accuse of abusing power in the past. Ponta also dismissed a university committee that had accused him of plagiarizing parts of his dissertation. For more on this story, see http://euobserver.com/843/116896.

Pope Fired Slovak Bishop   7 July 2012

Pope Benedict fired Robert Bezak, the bishop of Trnava, Slovakia, for abusing his position. The Vatican gave no official reason for its action, but it is possible that Church authorities did not like the way in which Bezak criticized his predecessor. Pope Gregory has fired several bishops in the past instead of forcing their resignation. See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/02/pope-fires-slovak-bishop-robert-bezak-rare-show-of-authority_n_1642999.html.

Airbus comes to Mobile, AL    2 July 2012

Airbus, the European aircraft manufacturer based in Paris, is going to build a plant in Mobile, AL, to construct its model A320.  The plant will employ approximately 1,000 people.  For more, read the NPR report at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=156106947.   A report on WUWF dated 29 June 2012 by Rick Harper, a professor of economics at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, FL, is located at http://wuwf.org/news/harper.shtml and http://wuwf.org/news/Harper%20062912.wma.

Posts for July and August    1 July 2012

As is the case every year, for the months of July and August, I will have far fewer posts. I occasionally may add some news or commentary to this page, but I will resume regular postings some time near the end of August. I wish the best to all my readers, whether they are enjoying a holiday or are continuing to work.