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

Join me from 13 to 29 June on my 2013 European tour to Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, and Hungary.  We will be traveling for seventeen days and will be visiting five towns and cities on a journey that starts in Berlin and takes us to Dresden, Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest.  The trip is great for individuals of any age, families, friends, and students.  Full details are available here.

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.  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 First Quarter of 2013


  1. 1 Croatia Is Prepared for EU Accession    31 March 2013
  2. 2 Some Investors Face Heavy Losses in Cyprus    30 March 2013
  3. 3 Church Land Scandal in Poland    29 March 2013
  4. 4 Cyprus Banks Open with Limited Services    29 March 2013
  5. 5 One-Room Hotel with a View    28 March 2013
  6. 6 Berlin Wall Falls Again    28 March 2013
  7. 7 Marian Column and the Krocín Fountain Will Return to Prague    26 March 2013
  8. 8 Deal in Cyprus    24 March 2013
  9. 9 EU Regional GDP Rankings    21 March 2013
  10. 10 Latvia Celebrated Waffen SS Divisions    20 March 2013
  11. 11 Cyprus Rejected Bailout    20 March 2013
  12. 12 Rush on Banks in Cyprus    18 March 2013
  13. 13 Change in Missile Defense System in Poland    18 March 2013
  14. 14 A Harsh Judgement of Standardized Testing    18 March 2013
  15. 15 Hungary's Controversial Journalism Award    18 March 2013
  16. 16 The Language Abilities of Europeans    16 March 2013
  17. 17 Greek Jews Commemorate Deportations    16 March 2013
  18. 18 The Effects of Drug Liberalization    16 March 2013
  19. 19 Cyprus Bailout    16 March 2013
  20. 20 More Controversy Regarding Hungary    15 March 2013  UPDATE!
  21. 21 Sorting out the Shot Heard around Moldova    15 March 2013
  22. 22 Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin (1922-2013)    13 March 2013
  23. 23 Zeman to Sign the European Stability Mechanism    11 March 2013
  24. 24 Challenges to Democracy in Hungary    11 March 2013    Updated!
  25. 25 Zeman Inaugurated President of the Czech Republic    8 March 2013  Update!
  26. 26 Ukraine and Gazprom    7 March 2013
  27. 27 Sixtieth Anniversary of Stalin's Death    6 March 2013
  28. 28 EU News Briefs    6 March 2013
  29. 29 Moldova's Political Changes    6 March 2013
  30. 30 Holocaust Site Survey    6 March 2013
  31. 31 Protecting Buildings in the International Style    6 March 2013
  32. 32 No Schengen Entry for Bulgaria and Romania    5 March 2013
  33. 33 "Capitalism vs. History": The Berlin Wall    5 March 2013
  34. 34 Women in Leadership Roles in the Balkans    4 March 2013
  35. 35 Virtual Tour of Prague Castle    3 March 2013
  36. 36 Wałęsa’s Anti-Gay Remarks    3 March 2013  Update!
  37. 37 Rioting in Macedonia    2 March 2013
  38. 38 The Szekler Flag War   1 March 2013
  39. 39 Ian Morris and His Critics    1 March 2013
  40. 40 Hungarian Forint Drops    28 February 2013
  41. 41 EU Cap on Bankers' Bonuses    28 February 2013
  42. 42 A Century of Quantitative History    28 February 2013
  43. 43 Bulgarian Elections in May    28 February 2013
  44. 44 Slovenian Government Falls    28 February 2013
  45. 45 Putin's Eurasian Union    27 February 2013
  46. 46 Bulgaria's Continued Problems    27 February 2013
  47. 47 Lions, Bears, and Gangster Removed in Romania    27 February 2013
  48. 48 EU Seeks Improved Relations with Ukraine and the East    26 February 2013
  49. 49 College Scorecard from the White House    26 February 2013
  50. 50 Bulgarian Government Resigns    21 February 2013
  51. 51 News Briefs    21 February 2013
  52. 52 Nudes Viewing Nudes    21 February 2013
  53. 53 Body of a Russian Local Legislator Found Encased in Concrete    18 February 2013
  54. 54 Belarus Court Delivers Late Valentine’s Day Teddy Bear Present   18 February 2013
  55. 55 Bulgarians Protest High Utility Prices    17 February 2013
  56. 56 Horse Meat Scandal in the EU    16 February 2013
  57. 57 Meteor Strikes Chelyabinsk    16 February 2013
  58. 58 EU and US to Discuss Free Trade    13 February 2013
  59. 59 Discovery of Richard III    13 February 2013
  60. 60 Attempted Assassination in Armenia    8 February 2013
  61. 61 Moldova Investigates Money Laundering    8 February 2013
  62. 62 Russia's Opposition    7 February 2013
  63. 63 Bulgaria Implicates Hezbollah in Attack    7 February 2013
  64. 64 Toilet from Hitler's Aviso Grille Is in New Jersey    6 February 2013
  65. 65 Dr. Miller Leads Tour to Central Europe    4 February 2013
  66. 66 Croats Object to Cyrillic Signs    4 February 2013
  67. 67 Gale Stokes (1933-2012)    1 February 2013
  68. 68 European Commission Report Critical of Romania    Update: 5 February 2013
  69. 69 Additional Attacks on Hungary's Independent Judiciary    1 February 2013
  70. 70 Latvia Prepares to Enter the Eurozone    1 February 2013
  71. 71 Volgograd Is Stalingrad Once More    1 February 2013
  72. 72 Florida Court Decides on Who Controls Tuition    1 February 2013
  73. 73 Mark Palmer (1941-2013)    31 January 2013
  74. 74 Video of Košice, European Capital of Culture    31 January 2013
  75. 75 News Briefs    31 January 2013
  76. 76 Philistine Pedagogy    30 January 2013
  77. 77 Oldřich Kulhánek (1940-2013)    30 January 2013
  78. 78 Ukraine's Svoboda Party    30 January 2013
  79. 79 Miloš Zeman Elected Czech President    27 January 2013
  80. 80 Opinion: The Czech Presidential Election and Klaus's Departure    26 January 2013
  81. 81 Russian Activist Stabbed    25 January 2013
  82. 82 Try One MOOC Free Then Enroll!–Now Even Coming to UWF!   24 January 2013
  83. 83 Have a BUD?    22 January 2013
  84. 84 Fiftieth Anniversary of the Élysée Treaty    22 January 2013
  85. 85 Serb Plan for North Kosovo: Autonomy    21 January 2013
  86. 86 EU Standardizes Driving Licenses    21 January 2013
  87. 87 Columnist Steven Goldstein on the Myth of a Free Market    21 January 2013
  88. 88 News Briefs    21 January 2013
  89. 89 Albania's Sworn Virgins    16 January 2013
  90. 90 Václav Klaus to Join the Cato Institute    16 January 2013
  91. 91 Bulgarian and Romanian Migrants in the UK    16 January 2013
  92. 92 Klemens von Klemperer (1916-2012)    16 January 2013
  93. 93 Budweiser from Budějovice in Britain    15 January 2013
  94. 94 A New Type of Pacemaker Tested in Prague    15 January 2013
  95. 95 How Long Do You Study?    13 January 2013
  96. 96 Update: Presidential Elections in the Czech Republic    12 January 2013
  97. 97 Recent Communist Electoral Successes in the Czech Republic    11 January 2013
  98. 98 Corruption Charges in Slovenia    11 January 2013
  99. 99 Remains of Göring’s First Wife Identified    11 January 2013
  100. 100 Yahoo! Reports on the Czech Republic    11 January 2013
  101. 101 New Photos of the First World War    11 January 2012
  102. 102 Гражданин Depardieu    11 January 2013
  103. 103 Immigration to Poland    9 January 2013
  104. 104 The Presidential Pardons of Václav Klaus    8 January 2013
  105. 105 Presidential Elections in Slovenia and the Czech Republic    7 January 2013
  106. 106 New Law May Threaten Romania's Media    7 January 2013
  107. 107 Latvia: Not a Success Story for Austerity    7 January 2013
  108. 108 Unequal University Tuition in Florida    7 January 2013
  109. 109 Greece and the EU in 2012    4 January 2013
  110. 110 Recent EU Milestones    4 January 2013
  111. 111 The Revival of Silesian Identity and Katowice    4 January 2013
  112. 112 Updates about Ukraine and Belarus    4 January 2013
  113. 113 Updates about Lithuania    4 January 2012
  114. 114 Košice: European Capital of Culture in 2013    3 January 2013
  115. 115 Herbert von Karajan’s Nazi Past    3 January 2013
  116. 116 Number of Academic Positions for Historians Increases    3 January 2013
  117. 117 Two Decades after Czechoslovakia: A Belated Requiem    1 January 2013
  118. 118 A New Year Tradition: The Vienna Philharmonic    1 January 2013

Croatia Is Prepared for EU Accession    31 March 2013

On 26 March, the European Commission released its "Monitoring Report on Croatia's Accession Preparations" (available at http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/fule/docs/news/20130326_report_final.pdf) that examined the country's fulfillment of ten "priority actions" for accession set out in the October 2012 "Comprehensive Monitoring Report."  The conclusion was that "Croatia is generally meeting the commitments and requirements arising from the accession negotiations, in all chapters.  Croatia has demonstrated its ability to fulfil all othercommitments in good time before accession" (p. 14).  The only area in which the report was hesitant was regarding the rule of law, specifically corruption and conflict of interest (pp. 6-7) and organized crime.  The greatest difficulties appeared with the level of sentencing for organized crime and with the country's efforts to reduce human trafficking (pp. 12-13).  The European Commission recommended that the "administrative and law enforcement capacities need to be strengthened" to deal with human trafficking (p. 13).  The report concluded that “where required, clear work plans are available or about to be finalised for completing the remaining work, including in the fight against corruption, in the months ahead” and that “building on the achievements to-date, Croatia is expected to continue developing its track record in the field of the rule of law, notably in the fight against corruption” (pp. 14-15).

Croatia has ratified the accession treaty, as have 19 other states of the European Union.  The other eight states are expected to ratify the treaty in time for Croatia's July entry date.

For additional details about the problems of corruption and trafficking in Croatia, see the "Monitoring Report on Croatia's Accession Preparations" and http://euobserver.com/enlargement/119592.

Some Investors Face Heavy Losses in Cyprus    30 March 2013

The large investors in Cyprus’s largest bank may face up to a 60 percent loss of assets in two rounds of raids that are necessary to shore up the bank.  Since these funds will be converted into stock, the investors may regain their full value.  Many analysts are skeptical about that possibility, especially in the face of anticipated capital flight and prolonged economic crisis on the island.  See http://news.yahoo.com/bank-cyprus-big-savers-lose-60-percent-135608668--finance.html.

Church Land Scandal in Poland    29 March 2013

Nine former members of the Polish Property Commission (Komisja Majątkowa, KM) are on trial in Kraków for corruption.  Part of the problem was that private developers ultimately obtained a significant portion of the land.  For background into this problem, see http://www.krakowpost.com/article/6386#.UVSUf5U8FnI.blogger.

Cyprus Banks Open with Limited Services    29 March 2013

Banks in Cyprus have been open for two days, although the amount of withdrawals is limited.  Domestic credit and debit transactions have no limit, but there is a €5,000 on foreign transactions.  See  http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2013/03/29/cyprus-financial-crisis-bank-limits.html and http://finance.yahoo.com/news/cyprus-reopens-banks-under-strict-011937643.html?l=1.

One-Room Hotel with a View    28 March 2013

A one-room hotel opened in the giant Žižkov television tower overlooking Prague.  Atop a communist-era tower more than 700 feet high, the room rents for €1000 per night.  The tower also hosts an observation deck and a restaurant with prices for entrées that are affordable, considering the venue.

Construction began on the tower in 1985 and finished in 1992, three years after the fall of communism.  There was some talk about halting work on the tower after the Velvet Revolution of 1989, but it continued because of the amount of money that the government already had investment into the project.  In addition to the restaurant, observation deck, and one-room hotel, the space-ship-like structure is hosts “Tower Babies” on its exterior, the work of the Czech sculptor David Černý (born 1967).

More about the restaurant and tower are at http://www.towerpark.cz/en.  A news report about the hotel is at http://travel.yahoo.com/ideas/-ugliest--prague-tower-adds-deluxe-hotel-room-170843053.html.  More about Černy is on this web site here.

Berlin Wall Falls Again    28 March 2013

In the dawn hours of 27 March, workers under the protection of 250 police removed a section of the Berlin Wall nearly 20 feet long, despite protests and other efforts to stop the work.  The opening in the wall is necessary to build luxury apartments, but those wishing to preserve the wall did not want to see it disturbed.  The investor stated that the removal was temporary to allow trucks access to the construction site.  Protesters were shocked at the operation, which was legal.  See http://news.yahoo.com/pre-dawn-operation-removes-part-berlin-wall-120324155.html; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/27/berlin-walls-east-side-gallery-removed_n_2962199.html, or http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/27/berlin-wall-section-removed-protests?INTCMP=SRCH.

Marian Column and the Krocín Fountain Will Return to Prague    26 March 2013

The destruction of the Marian Column in Prague, November 1918.  Source: http://zpravy.idnes.cz/obrazem-pred-devadesati-lety-padl-k-zemi-mariansky-sloup-pk9-/domaci.aspx?c=A081103_114650_praha_pje.
In 1862, workers removed the Krocín Fountain (Krocínova kašna), a Renaissance landmark constructed in 1591, from the Old Town Square in Prague.  It was made of marble, a soft stone, which deteriorated quickly.  It did not hold water from the late eighteenth century, and in 1862, the city decided it was too expensive to repair and that it was best to demolish it, some protests notwithstanding.  Only a few pieces survived.

In 1650, the Czech Baroque sculptor Jan Jiří Bendl (c. 1610-1680) erected the Marian Column (Mariánský sloup) to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Old Town Square.  Many Czechs associated it with the Habsburgs and forced Catholization after the 1618 defeat at White Mountain.  In November 1918, just days after the establishment of the Czechoslovak First Republic, a crowd pulled down the statue.  Other religious statues and monuments to Habsburgs throughout the Czech Lands suffered similar fates immediately after the First World War.

The Prague city authorities have decided to renew both the Marian Column and the Kocín Fountain.  Apparently both reconstructions will appear in their original locations.  The planning stages already are underway, and the two reconstructions should be complete in 2014.

For a brief announcement in English of the plan, see http://www.radio.cz/en/news#7.  Source for the photo showing the destruction of the Marian Column in Prague in November 1918: http://zpravy.idnes.cz/obrazem-pred-devadesati-lety-padl-k-zemi-mariansky-sloup-pk9-/domaci.aspx?c=A081103_114650_praha_pje.

Deal in Cyprus    24 March 2013

In the early morning hours of 25 March 2013, Cypriot lawmakers agreed to close the country's second-largest bank, which has the greatest financial problems, and to freeze the assets of investors with more than 100,000, which are not guaranteed by law in the European Union, as the first step to confiscating a portion of the assets.  The move will hurt mostly foreign investors, specifically Russians.  The legislation paves the way for an IMF and eurozone bailout.  See http://finance.yahoo.com/news/cyprus-eu-imf-agree-draft-002707985.html?l=1.  On Friday, 22 March, the legislators passed a series of laws to restructure the country's financial system that also were steps needed to qualify for the bailout.  See http://news.yahoo.com/cyprus-lawmakers-approve-key-bills-bailout-220137213--finance.html.  For the previous post on this news item, click here.

EU Regional GDP Rankings    21 March 2013

Eurostat has released the regional rankings for GDP per capita in 2010 for the European Union.  Of the 20 highest, the top five slots are Inner London, Luxembourg, Brussels, Hamburg, and Île de France.  Bratislava is seventh, Prague is eighth, Vienna is tenth, and Saltzburg is twentieth.  The 20 lowest are in Bulgaria (five regions), Hungary (four regions), Poland (five regions), and Romania (six regions).  According to Eurostat, "More than one region in seven with GDP per capita above 125 percent of the average . . . and one in four below 75 percent."  The statistics are available at http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_PUBLIC/1-21032013-AP/EN/1-21032013-AP-EN.PDF.  The web page for Eurostat is http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/eurostat/home/.

Latvia Celebrated Waffen SS Divisions    20 March 2013

March 16, Legionnaires Day, Latvians commemorated the 250,000 who joined or were conscripted into Waffen SS divisions that had fought against the Soviets during the Second World War.  Only about 100,000 survived.  A few Russians protested the event, some with pictures relating to the Holocaust.  Latvians maintain that the Latvian Waffen SS soldiers did not play any role in the Holocaust because the Jews of Latvia, of whom only 10 percent survived, met their fate before the conscription of Latvians into the SS began.  The police maintained order between the two groups.  See http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/latvians-commemorate-waffen-ss-divisions-amid-loud-protest-police-presence/2013/03/16/29893178-8e2c-11e2-adca-74ab31da3399_story.html.

Cyprus Rejected Bailout    20 March 2013

The Cypriot parliament rejected an IMF and eurozone bailout on 19 March, with not one member voting for the measure.  As a result, the financial crisis in Cyprus continues, and the country may extend its bank holiday.  The stumbling block was the confiscation of €5.8 billion in deposits that the deal required, and the German government has warned Cyprus that the European Central Bank may not support the two largest banks in Cyprus that are threatened with collapse.  The Cypriot finance minister, Michalis Sarris, now is in Moscow for negotiations to determine how the Russians might intervene.  Not only do Russians have a large portion of deposits in Cyprus (see the posting immediately below), but Cyprus is Russia's third most important investor.  Meanwhile, the German finance minister and a board member of the European Central Bank sparred over whose idea it was to confiscate a portion of the depositors' accounts in Cypriot banks to provide collateral to underwrite the bailout.

For general information about the situation in Cyprus, see http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/20/business/global/cyprus-rejects-tax-on-bank-deposits.html?_r=0,
http://news.yahoo.com/cyprus-proposes-no-charge-small-account-holders-095839800--finance.html, and http://euobserver.com/economic/119463.  On the ECB support of Cypriot banks, see http://euobserver.com/economic/119493.  On Russian and Cypriot financial ties, see http://euobserver.com/news/119496.  On the origination of the confiscation idea, see http://euobserver.com/economic/119463.

Rush on Banks in Cyprus    18 March 2013

Cypriots pulled their money out of banks before the government finalized a plan to confiscate a percentage of all deposits as part of the austerity measures the country faces after arranging a bailout with the IMF and the eurozone countries (see the posting on this web site here). The banks in Cyprus are a haven for individuals in Eastern Europe who seek accounts abroad, and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, who some claim has up to €15 million in Cyprus banks, strongly criticized the confiscation plan. The eurozone demanded the accounts seizure in order to prevent the bailout from benefiting Russian billionaires. The Cypriot authorities closed the banks, and parliament will consider a means to protect small investors.  See http://eu-digest.blogspot.com/2013/03/cyprus-unscrupulous-government-and.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FWwTPi+%28EU-DIGEST%29

Change in Missile Defense System in Poland    18 March 2013

The United States has decided to place a long-range missile defense system intended for installation in northern Poland in Alaska to counter the threat from North Korea. The change does not affect the medium-range missiles planned for southern Poland, the missiles to be installed in Romania, and the interceptors already in place on a ship in the Mediterranean Sea to protect against the Iranian threat. American officials stated that the change was not meant to appease Russia. See http://news.yahoo.com/us-reassures-poland-over-missile-defense-changes-134545437.html.

A Harsh Judgement of Standardized Testing    18 March 2013

David Patten, a high school history teacher as well as an author and college instructor, has written a scathing critique of standardized testing in the schools.  He recounted how he scrapped valuable learning exercises in order to focus on teaching so that the students would score well on the test.  About the standardized tests, including the Common Core tests, Patten concluded:

I would rather place my faith in the educational judgment of people like those brave teachers who laid down their lives protecting their students in Newtown than in having to obey a gang of bloodless bureaucrats crunching numbers. Their high-stakes obsessions are fishhooks in our flesh. To paraphrase Kierkegaard, “life must be lived forward, but it can only be understood backward.” I saw the before and I endured the after. If we are to live forward, then the solution is simple: we must rid ourselves of proficiency testing and let the teachers teach.

See Patten's article at http://hnn.us/articles/let-teachers-teach.

Hungary's Controversial Journalism Award    18 March 2013

Ferenc Szaniszló, an anti-Semetic and anti-Roma broadcaster at a pro-government channel, has received Hungary's Táncsics Prize in journalism from the government.  Kornél Bakay, an anti-Semitic archaeologist, has received a different Táncsics Prize.  In protest, ten other Táncsics Prize winners returned their prizes.  Israel formally requested that the Hungarian government withdraw the award it gave to Szaniszló.  See http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/hungarian-government-awards-tancsics-prize-for-journalism-to-notorious-antisemite-ferenc-szaniszlo-8538178.html and http://news.yahoo.com/israel-asks-hungary-withdraw-journalism-award-213412252.html.

The Language Abilities of Europeans    16 March 2013

EU Citizens: Languages Necessary    16 March 2013
In 2012, approximately 27,000 from throughout the European Union responded to a survey regarding the importance of learning foreign languages.  The “Europeans and their Languages,” Special Eurobarometer 386, survey revealed that:

1) almost all Europeans (98%) think that mastering foreign languages is useful for their children's future; 88% see it as useful for themselves;

2) almost three quarters (72%) agree with the EU objective that everybody should learn at least 2 foreign languages; 77% think that improvement in language skills should be a policy priority;

3) 67% see English as one of the two most useful languages for themselves. Among the others most frequently cited as useful are German (17%), French (16%), Spanish (14%) and Chinese (6%).

More than half--specifically 54 percent--can converse in at least one foreign language, while 25 percent can speak two languages, and 10 percent can speak three or more.  Furthermore, the percentage of those who can speak at least one foreign language has been rising steadily since 2001, when the first such survey took place.  Almost all of the citizens of Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Slovenia, and Sweden can speak at least one foreign language, while Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia have seen decreases in the numbers who can speak foreign languages.  English (38 percent can speak English), French (12 percent), German (11 percent), Spanish (7 percent), and Russian (5 percent) are the most common foreign languages.

The survey from Eurobarometer includes a press release, executive summary, full report, and country data that is available at the following addresses:

The link to the survey through the European Commission is: http://ec.europa.eu/languages/languages-of-europe/eurobarometer-survey_en.htm.

Greek Jews Commemorate Deportations    16 March 2013

Jews in Greece commemorated the deportations that began 70 years ago on 15 March to Nazi concentration camps.  Of the 49,000 Jews who were deported, only about 2,000 survived.  See http://news.yahoo.com/jews-greece-mark-wwii-nazi-deportation-223745848.html.

The Effects of Drug Liberalization    16 March 2013

The Czech Republic has rather liberal laws regarding drugs, which is convenient for users but means less profit for dealers.  Since the steps the government has taken since 2010 to relax its drug legislation covered not only marihuana but all sorts of drugs, there has been a proliferation in drug tourism and the availability of dangerous drugs, including crystal meth.  A journalist's report on the situation is available in English from Spiegel Online at http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/the-winners-and-losers-of-drug-liberalization-in-the-czech-republic-a-888618.html.

Cyprus Bailout    16 March 2013

The eurozone countries and the IMF have granted Cyprus a bailout of €10 billion, that is, about $13 million, in return for deficit reduction and higher taxes.  See http://news.yahoo.com/cyprus-secures-bailout-eurozone-imf-024409471--finance.html.

More Controversy Regarding Hungary    15 March 2013  UPDATE!

Viktor Orbán, the prime minister of Hungary and leading figure of the ruling Fidesz party, has dismissed criticism of the country's new constitutional amendments.   Some European Union leaders have threatened to evoke Article 7 of the Treaty of the European Union that would prevent Hungary from voting in the EU because of a "serious breach by a Member State of the values" as stated in in Article 2, which include "respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities."  In addition to the list of changes to the constitution that Fidesz had advanced and that this web site reported here, the Fidesz deputies added another: in its decisions, the Constitutional Court cannot refer to cases before the 1 January 2012 promulgation of Hungary's new constitution.  See http://euobserver.com/justice/119431.

Update on 16 March 2013: For another perspective on the events in Hungary in the past few days, including the impact on Hungary's economy, see http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/andy-langenkamp/hungary-to-destroy-european-economic-recovery_b_2865818.html#.UUSokM_LG1Q.blogger.

Sorting out the Shot Heard around Moldova    15 March 2013

Kamil Całus, an analyst with the Centre for Eastern Studies in Warsaw, has written an excellent article that analyzes the complicated controversy surrounding the fall of the Moldovan government.  He also explains how the internal political crisis in Moldova could have an impact on the European Union.  The article is available at http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/699.  A brief explanation of the situation in Moldova on this web site is here.

Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin (1922-2013)    13 March 2013

Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin, who was involved in the 20 July 1944 plot to murder Adolf Hitler, died on 8 March at the age of 90.  In one scheme, he was to carry the bomb and would be killed in the blast.  In the plot that actually took place, he remained in Berlin as part of the group that was to lead a Putsch upon confirmation of Hitler's death.  After Hitler survived the bombing, von Kleist was questioned, released, and sent to the Russian front.  The other conspirators apparently had not revealed the extent of his involvement in the conspiracy.  Von Kleist's father, who was part of the resistance and had some knowledge of the attack, was arrested, placed in a concentration camp, and guillotined in the closing days of the war.  Other than having advised his son to cooperate with Hitler's would-be assassins, he had no role in the scheme.  See  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/13/world/europe/ewald-heinrich-von-kleist-anti-hitler-plotter-dies-at-90.html?_r=0. 

Zeman to Sign the European Stability Mechanism    11 March 2013

The new Czech president, Miloš Zeman, in a sharp departure from the path of his predecessor, Václav Klaus, announced that he will sign the European Stability Mechanism Treaty.  The Czech Republic is the only country in the European Union that has not ratified the treaty because Klaus, a staunch Eurosceptic, objected to it.  Zeman also has invited the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, to Prague and stated that he will fly the European Union flag from the castle for the visit.  See http://www.radio.cz/en/section/curraffrs/change-of-guard-at-prague-castle-signals-end-to-animosities-between-prague-castle-and-brussels.

Challenges to Democracy in Hungary    11 March 2013    Updated!

The Hungarian Parliament will consider constitutional amendments that would enable the cabinet to overrule the Constitutional Court and legislation to ban political campaigns in the private media, to require students with state scholarships to remain in Hungary, and to prohibit sleeping on the streets.  Thousands of Hungarians have protested the proposed changes, and the European Commission as well as the Council of Europe have requested that Viktor Orbán, the prime minister and leading figure of the Fidesz party, delay votes on the measures because of their undemocratic nature.  For more, see http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/hungary-erupts-in-protest-after-pm-viktor-orbn-is-accused-of-assault-on-democracy-8528241.html#.UT09R6iwapk.blogger.

UPDATE! The Hungarian Parliament passed the constitutional amendment on 11 March that requires political campaign ads for those running for the European Parliament use only the state media, which is under the control of the Fidesz party that has a track record of censoring the news.  To qualify for the advertisement space, a party must have nation-wide support, which is another means through which Fidesz can restrict access to the media.  See http://euobserver.com/justice/119386.

Zeman Inaugurated President of the Czech Republic    8 March 2013  Update!

Miloš Zeman (born 28 September 1944), a former Social Democrat, was inaugurated today as the third president of the Czech Republic.  His predecessors were Václav Havel (1936-2011; president, 1993-2003) and Václav Klaus (born 1941; president 2003-2013).  He graduated from the University of Economics in Prague in 1969, and during the Prague Spring, he joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.  Because he opposed the Warsaw Pact invasion of 21 August 1968, he was expelled from the Communist party.  When he published "Prognostics and Reconstruction" in 1989 that was critical of the communist regime, he lost his job, but he was undeterred.  He joined Civic Forum during the 1989 Velvet Revolution and then became a member of the Social Democratic party.  After the Velvet Divorce that divided Czechoslovakia, Zeman became the head of his party, a position he held until 2001, and in 1996-1998 he served as the chair of the Chamber of Deputies.  From 1998 to 2002 he was the prime minister of a minority government.  Disagreements in 2007 caused Zeman to leave the Social Democratic party, and he established in 2009 his own Party of Civic Rights--Zemanovci, which was unsuccessful in the 2010 election.  He ran for president in 2012, the first time Czech voters directly elected their president, and he faced a run-off election with Karel Schwarzenberg (born 1937).  Although he is married, his wife prefers not to be seen in public, so his daughter, Kateřina Zemanová (born 1994), will take on the role of first lady.

Zeman is known for being opinionated and sometimes blunt, and his simple demeanor belies his intellectual ability.  He also has an earthy sense of humor, as is apparent in his story about how he smoked in the White House while visiting President George Bush.

In 2001, this author participated in a conference about Czechoslovakia's first president, Tomáš G. Masaryk (1850-1937; president 1918-1935), and both Zeman and Klaus addressed the attendees (Havel was to do so, but he was ill at the time).  Zeman explained how he wrote a report in high school about the Czech writer Karel Čapek (1890-1938), Zeman mentioned President Masaryk, which caused him to have political difficulties for some time.  He remarked that he was no expert on Masaryk but that his desire to know about the first president taught him about the intolerance of the Communist regime.  The published version of the address is in Emil Voráček, ed., T. G. Masaryk, idea demokracie a současné evropanství: Sborník mezinárodní vědecké konference konané v Praze 2.-4. března 2000 (Prague: Nadace Jiřího z Poděbrad pro evropskou spolupráci and Masaryk Ústav AV ČR a Ústav T. G. Masaryka o.p.s., 2001), vol. 1, 19-20.

Information in English about the inauguration is available at Radio Prague's web page: http://www.radio.cz/en/news#1.  Pictures of the inauguration and a video clip is available at http://www.ceskatelevize.cz/ct24/domaci/218028-zeman-se-ujal-uradu-chce-bojovat-proti-kmotrum-a-setkavat-se-s-lidmi/.  Like President Barack Obama, Zeman took the oath twice.   The first document Zeman signed contained a grammatical error that resulted from two missing letters in one word.

Former President Klaus attended the inauguration ceremony and then left for the United States, where he will take part in a conference under the auspices of the conservative Cato Institute, where Klaus has assumed the position of a distinguished senior fellow.  For more information on Klaus's position, see the article on this web site here.

On the recent presidential elections in the Czech Republic, see the postings on this web site of 7 January 2013, 12 January 2013, 26 January 2013, and 27 January 2013.

Update!  Pavol Szalai, an analyst and journalist who has covered Czech politics, wrote an article about what to expect from Zeman's presidency for New Eastern Europe that is available at http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/696.

Ukraine and Gazprom    7 March 2013

As Ukraine is taking steps toward energy independence, such as developing its own gas reserves in cooperation with Shell, Russia's Gazprom is redoubling its efforts to keep the country dependent on Gazprom's natural gas.  For an excellent article that sorts out the complexities of Ukraine's natural gas needs and its pipeline system, see http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/683.

Sixtieth Anniversary of Stalin's Death    6 March 2013

On 5 March 60 years ago, Joseph Stalin (18 December 1878-5 March 1953) died at the age of 74.  Hardly noticed in the United States and Western Europe, the anniversary is one that attracted the attention of the media in former Soviet Bloc countries.  Two reports include film clips of interest:

For a review of the Soviet Union's historic accomplishments at home and during the Second World War under Stalin, see the 14-minute Polish newsreel produced at the time of Stalin's death available at http://wiadomosci.dziennik.pl/historia/ciekawostki/artykuly/421169,smierc-stalina-kronika-filmowa-wideo.html.

The Slovak online news service SME.sk offers readers a hour-long newsreel on Stalin's funeral in Russian with Italian subtitles.  Approximately half way through the newsreel are clips of the many leaders from throughout the socialist world.  Speeches from Lenin's tomb appear later in the production.  The newsreel is available at http://www.sme.sk/c/6669954/stalinova-smrt-nebola-dramou-ani-tragediou-ale-groteskou.html.

EU News Briefs    6 March 2013

Microsoft Fined -- The European Union fined Microsoft for a breach of its 2009 anti-monopoly agreement that was to give Windows 7 purchasers the ability to use different Internet browsers.  The fine was €561 million ($731 million), far below the maximum 10 percent of revenue that the EU could have charged Microsoft.  For more, see http://www.dw.de/eu-executive-fines-microsoft-for-antitrust-breach/a-16652358#.UTdtzFFpDww.blogger.

Cyprus Bailout -- The European Union, International Monetary Fund, and European Central Bank will provide Cyprus with a bailout that may amount to €17.  In turn, Cyprus may have to privatize its telecommunications system and restructure its banking system, including a strengthening of its procedures to prevent money laundering.  For more, see http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-business/european-business/euro-zone-to-bail-out-cyprus-but-money-laundering-must-stop/article9277028/#.UTaqZqa0ZGo.blogger.

Moldova's Political Changes    6 March 2013

The Moldovan government recently collapsed, in part over the apparent death of a well-connected businessman during a hunting trip.  Meanwhile the foreign ministers of Poland, Sweden, and Germany visited the country and indicated that the European Union may initial but not sign an association agreement with Moldova.  The fall of the government, which was a coalition of the Liberal Democratic party and the Alliance for European Integration, raises the question of European integration because the Communist party, which is the strongest party in the country, prefers closer ties with Russia.  For more, see http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/688.

Holocaust Site Survey    6 March 2013

Researchers at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, are creating an inventory of all of the concentration camps and ghettos of the Holocaust.  The well-known sites are numerous, but what has surprised specialists are the large numbers of smaller ghettos, work camps, brothels for German soldiers, and specialized killing centers that the Nazis ran.  The number thus far is 42,500 sites.  See http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/03/sunday-review/the-holocaust-just-got-more-shocking.html?pagewanted=1.

Protecting Buildings in the International Style    6 March 2013

Architectural experts in Montgomery County, MD, are seeking to protect mid-century buildings of the International Style, that is, those buildings commonly perceived to be glass boxes.  See http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/montgomerys-mad-men-modern-buildings--are-they-worth-protecting/2013/02/28/61a57372-7b90-11e2-82e8-61a46c2cde3d_story.html.  The survey is available at http://www.montgomeryplanning.org/historic/montgomery_modern/.  The International Style grew from the Bauhaus movement during Germany's Weimar Republic.  Two of the heads of the Bauhaus school, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) and Walter Gropius (1883-1969), immigrated to America after Adolf Hitler came to power and spearheaded the effort to create the glass curtain walls without ornamentation.

No Schengen Entry for Bulgaria and Romania    5 March 2013

Germany plans to veto entry into the Schengen area for Romania and Bulgaria later this week at a meeting of interior ministers of countries that have signed the treaty.  Germany's interior minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich of the conservative Christian Social Union, is behind the move, citing the large amount of corruption in both countries.  See http://euobserver.com/justice/119261.

"Capitalism vs. History": The Berlin Wall    5 March 2013

Real estate developers building luxury accommodations had to halt demolition of a 22-meter section of one of the few remaining sections of the Berlin Wall on 1 March after protesters blocked the progress of workmen, who already had removed one section of precast concrete.  At the site of the proposed demolition, protesters placed candles, flowers, and a banner that read "Capitalism vs. History."  Additional protests took place on 3 March, and the city authorities announced that there may be a way to provide an alternative entrance to the new building.

The AP feed on the story is at http://news.yahoo.com/removal-berlin-wall-section-put-hold-120547123--finance.html, and another article by Valentina Pop from EUobserver.com at http://euobserver.com/social/119270 provides some background to the history of the Berlin Wall.

Women in Leadership Roles in the Balkans    4 March 2013

Women hold several top political positions in the Balkans: Slovenia (prime minister), Kosovo (president), and Republika Srpska in Bosnia-Herzegovina (prime minister-designate).  Recently, Croatia had a female prime minister.  Jovana Gec and Dusan Stojanovic consider the position of women politicians in the Balkans in an AP release available at http://news.yahoo.com/women-emerge-crisis-leaders-macho-balkans-073239728.html.

Virtual Tour of Prague Castle    3 March 2013

Prague Castle just has added a virtual tour in Czech and English to its web site.  The English version is at http://www.hrad.cz/en/prague-castle/virtual-tour/index.shtml.  This link also appears in this web site on the page dedicated to European Museums.  The tour includes interiors, and a map allows the viewer to select from among 15 locations.

Wałęsa’s Anti-Gay Remarks    3 March 2013  Update!

On Friday, 1 March, the former dissident union leader who helped end communism in Poland and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Lech Wałęsa, gave an interview on TVN, the independent Polish television station.  He weighed in on the debate about gay marriage, which has met with strong opposition in the conservative Catholic country, stating that “it is the majority that creates a democracy . . . . But that, which we have, is a minority marching at the head of the majority.”  He further commented that “I do not want that minority, with which I do not agree, to go into the street and bother my children and grandchildren.  I am from the old school.  I understand that they are different people [with a] different orientation.  But do not change the order of things established over the centuries.  In the end, I even do not want to hear them speak.  They can do things on their own, [but] let me and my grandchildren alone.”  Poland now has its first openly homosexual and transsexual legislators, and when the interviewer asked Wałęsa if the homosexual members of the Sejm should sit against the wall in the back of the chamber, he stated: “Yes, against the wall, in the end even behind the wall.”

Janusz Palikat, the head of the Palikot Movement that is strongly anti-clerical and favors full rights for homosexuals, commented that "Lech Wałęsa up until now was known for tearing down walls, not building them."  Many fear that Wałęsa’s comments have done irreparable harm to his reputation.

Sources: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/democracy-icon-lech-walesa-sparks-storm-in-poland-with-anti-gay-remarks/2013/03/03/185773f6-83eb-11e2-a80b-3edc779b676f_story.html; http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/03/us-walesa-gays-idUSBRE92209N20130303; http://www.rozhlas.cz/zpravy/evropa/_zprava/byvaly-polsky-prezident-lech-walesa-ostre-vystoupil-proti-homosexualum--1182511; and http://www.novinky.cz/zahranicni/evropa/294857-walesa-otevrene-vystoupil-proti-homosexualum-nechci-je-ani-slyset-mluvit.html.  Note: D. E. Miller translated the direct quotations of Wałęsa from the two Czech sources listed above.

Update!:  On 6 March, Janusz Palikat of the Palikot Movement arranged to have two of his party members, Robert Biedron, who is homosezual, and Anna Grodzka, who is a transsexual, take seats in the front row of the Polish Sejm in protest to Wałęsa's comment that gay legislators should set "against the wall, in the end even behind the wall."  See http://news.yahoo.com/polish-lawmakers-protest-walesas-anti-gay-rant-094923861.html.

Rioting in Macedonia    2 March 2013

Nearly two dozen people were injured today during rioting in the Macedonian capital of Skopje.  The issue was the appointment of Talat Xhaferi, an ethnic Albanian and a leading participant in the ethnic conflict in the country in 2001, as defense minister.  After Macedonians rioted to demand Zhaferi's resignation, Albanians rioted on his behalf.  The situation is calm only because of a strong police presence on the streets.  Macedonians comprise about two-thirds of the population, while one-quarter of the citizens, largely in the northwestern quadrant of the compact Balkan state, are Albanian.  See http://news.yahoo.com/least-22-people-injured-macedonia-riots-220940082.html.

The Szekler Flag War   1 March 2013

The Szeklers (Hungarian: Székely) of Transylvania, which is part of Romania, are closely related to the Hungarians and are referred to as a Hungarian subgroup (others are the Csángó, Hassic, and Palóc).  Their precise origin is unknown, and many simply count them as Hungarians.  After the First World War, Transylvania, whose population is largely Romanian, went to Romania.  During the Second World War, specifically from the Second Vienna Award of August 1940 until September 1944, Hungary had the part of Transylvania that with a heavy concentration of Szeklers, and after the war the area again reverted to Romania.  The Communist regime in Romania persecuted the Hungarian speakers, resulting in heightened tensions after the fall of the Berlin Wall between Romania and Hungary, which looks after Hungarian minorities in its neighboring states of Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Croatia, and Serbia.

Szeklers in Transylvania are flying the Szekler flag (see the illustration accompanying this entry), which is unnerving for the Romanians.  In solidarity, Hungarian minorities elsewhere display the Szekler flag.  In the meantime, the Szekler flag is becoming an issue between Hungary and Romania, both of which have governments that came to power with strong majorities and which have faced criticisms from the European Union and elsewhere for their non-democratic policies.

In an article for New Eastern Europe, Dabis Attila, a political scientist and the foreign affairs commissioner of the Szekler National Council, explained the controversy over the Szekler flag.  His article is at http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/680.  The web page for the Szekler National Council, which seeks to create an autonomous Szekler region in Transylvania, is at http://www.sznt.ro/en/index.php.

Ian Morris and His Critics    1 March 2013

Marc Parry of The Chronicle of Higher Education has interviewed Ian Morris, the author of Why the West Rules—for Now (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010), and has put Morris's detractors and supporters into perspective at http://chronicle.com/article/In-Ian-Morriss-Big-History/137415/?cid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en.

Hungarian Forint Drops    28 February 2013

The Hungarian National Bank cut interest rates, and the Hungarian forint dropped against the euro to a four-week low.  The expectation is that the central bank will continue its current policy in an effort to end the recession in the country once the new president of the bank, Gyorgy Matolcsy, currently minister of the economy, assumes office next week.  For more, see http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-27/forint-drops-to-four-week-low-on-hungary-central-bank-outlook.html#.US6lRuPPm-w.blogger.

EU Cap on Bankers' Bonuses    28 February 2013

The European Union has agreed to cap bankers' bonuses to a level that equals their annual salary as a means of discouraging risky behavior.  Negotiations about the limits banks must hold in reserve are ongoing.  For more details, see the AP feed at http://news.yahoo.com/eu-agrees-limit-banker-bonuses-132418378--finance.html.

A Century of Quantitative History    28 February 2013

In an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Peter Turchin examined the popularity of quantitative history, based on certain key terms he found in books that are part of the Google digitized book collection.  The data suggests that quantitative history first appeared as a weak trend in 1910, began a sharp rise in the middle of the 1960s, peaked in 1978, then faced a decline.  However, rather than fading completely from view, the number of publications using quantitative research methods after 2005 was just under half of what appeared in the second half of the 1970s.  Turchin concludes that each cycle of popularity puts the discipline on a stronger basis.  "The Rise and Fall of Cliometrics, and the Coming Rise of Cliodynamics" dated 26 February 2013 is available at http://socialevolutionforum.com/2013/02/26/the-rise-and-fall-of-cliometrics-and-the-coming-rise-of-cliodynamics/.  See also the companion article of 27 February 2013 by Marc Parry titled "What Happened to Quantitative History? A Scholar Runs the Numbers," also in The Chronicle of Higher Education at http://chronicle.com/blogs/percolator/what-happened-to-quantitative-history-a-scholar-runs-the-numbers/32189?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en.

Bulgarian Elections in May    28 February 2013

The president of Bulgaria, Rosen Plevneliev, has set 12 May as the date for new electionsSince no party wished to form a government based on the current constellation of parties in the legislature, Plevneliev determined that the elections would take place two months earlier than the originally-scheduled July date.  See the AP feed at http://news.yahoo.com/bulgaria-hold-early-elections-may-12-104343399.html.

Slovenian Government Falls    28 February 2013

The Slovenian prime minister, Janez Janša, failed to survive a no-confidence vote today as a result of the country's deepening economic problems and accusations of tax evasion (the investigation against Janša is ongoing).  The new prime minister is Alenka Bratušek of the center-left Positive Slovenia party.  She has worked with the budget for six years in the Ministry of Finance and has promised that Slovenia will not go down the path of Greece and will avoid being the seventh country to take a bailout from the European Union.  Nevertheless, she is unwilling to continue the austerity of the previous government and stated that "cutting spending will not in itself achieve economic growth . . . [and will] not lead to deficit reduction."  Bratušek's task over the next 15 days, according to the constitution, is to form a government based on the parties currently in the legislature.  See http://euobserver.com/economic/119229 and http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/764822.shtml.

Putin's Eurasian Union    27 February 2013

It seems that not much has come of Vladimir Putin's proposal in 2011 for an Eurasian Union that would encompass the former Soviet states in an association that would resemble the European Union and that would have Russian as its common language.  Aside from the loosely-structured Commonwealth of Independent States, there is an economic agreement that binds together Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, while Belarus and Russia form a Union State that aims to intensify economic, political, and social ties between the two states.  There also is a common defense agreement that includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.  The Eurasian Union, though, is more than yet another regional agreement.  Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia already have formed an Eurasian Commission, modeled on the European Commission, that has the power to set policy in a number of economic areas.  Many believe that if Putin is successful with this project, it will amount to the recreation of the Soviet Union.

Jakub Korejba, a doctoral candidate at Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) at the University of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia and an adviser for the Center for Post-Soviet Studies at MGIMO-University, has written an article on the appeal of the Eurasian Union idea and Russia's commitment to making it reality.  See http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/670.

Bulgaria's Continued Problems    27 February 2013

Even though the government has tendered its resignation because of the protests over the high price of energy, discontent in Bulgaria is mounting.  The president has yet to name a caretaker government and set new elections, but the continued protesters are demanding more.  Some want a new constitution because the institutions of the state have failed the people, and others blame the political parties and corruption for the crisis the state faces.  See http://euobserver.com/news/119209.

Lions, Bears, and Gangster Removed in Romania    27 February 2013

Romanian authorities arrested Ion Balint, a well-known gangster, and removed lions and bears from his estate.  Some claim he was using the animals to intimidate others, but relatives and neighbors contend that he simply loves animals.  See http://news.yahoo.com/lions-bears-removed-gangsters-property-124851051.html.

EU Seeks Improved Relations with Ukraine and the East    26 February 2013

In order to prevent Ukraine from improving its relations with Russia, the European Union has welcomed Viktor Yanukovych, the president of Ukraine, for meetings.  The EU is interested in pursuing a political association and free trade agreement with Ukraine, but a major stumbling block continues to be the imprisonment of Yanukovych's political opponent and former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko.  See http://euobserver.com/foreign/119185.

In the meantime, the Czech Republic,Germany, Poland, and Sweden have presented an Eastern partnership program to the Catherine Ashton, the EU's High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.  They are in favor of developing closer ties with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, including free trade agreements.  Poland also would like to hold out the promise of EU membership to these countries, and Lithuania believes that Moldavia may be ready first.  For more information, see http://euobserver.com/foreign/119125.

Armenia recently went through a presidential election, which the incumbent, Serzh Sargsyan, handily won with 59 percent of the votes.  Observers decided that the elections were democratic, despite some irregularities, but the candidate who came in second place with 37 percent of the votes, Raffi Hovannisian, is claiming that the election had major flaws.  Some believe that Hovannisian will form a credible opposition, even as the EU welcomed Sargsyan's victory and looks forward to closer ties with Armenia.  See http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/675.

College Scorecard from the White House    26 February 2013

The White House recently unveiled its College Scorecard to help prospective students determine the cost of higher education.  The site provides several important bits of information: anticipated costs, graduation rates, default rates, and median borrowing.  It is incomplete, and some critics note that the information is available elsewhere and is outdated.  Despite the problems, the College Scorecard is a simple and useful tool to help sort out the price students will pay to attend specific institutions.  The College Scorecard is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/education/higher-education/college-score-card.  For a site that provides even more detailed financial information about colleges, see http://college-insight.org/.  An article in the New York Times about the College Scorecard is at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/14/education/obamas-college-scorecard-needs-works-experts-say.html?_r=0.  A link to the College Scorecard appears in the links that appear at the bottom of the section titled Choosing a College on this web site.

Bulgarian Government Resigns    21 February 2013

Because of continuing demonstrations over the cost of electricity, the Bulgarian government on 20 February tendered its resignation.  After removing the finance minister and revoking the license of the Czech energy firm CEZ failed to satisfy protesters, 14 of whom landed in the hospital because of clashes with the police, the Bulgarian prime minister, Bojko Borisov, commented that "the people gave us power and today we are returning it."  He also told the parliament that "I will not participate in a government under which police are beating people. Every drop of blood is a shame for us."  See http://euobserver.com/economic/119128.

News Briefs    21 February 2013

Poland Targets 2017 and Lithuania 2015 for Adoption of the Euro -- http://euobserver.com/economic/119126.

Media Crackdown in Ukraine -- http://euobserver.com/foreign/119140.

Nudes Viewing Nudes    21 February 2013

The Leopold Museum in Vienna has arranged tours specifically for nude men to view its exhibition titled "Nude Men from 1800 to Today."  Shocking?  Not for the Viennese.  Read more at http://news.yahoo.com/nudes-check-nudes-austrian-museum-083032430.html.

Body of a Russian Local Legislator Found Encased in Concrete    18 February 2013

The body of Mikhail Pakhomov, a local legislator south of Moscow, was found concreted in a barrel.  A Moscow region politician, Yevgeny Kharitonov, allegedly had Pakhomov murdered for not repaying $80 that Kharitonov needed to advance his career.  See http://news.yahoo.com/russian-lawmakers-body-found-cemented-barrel-192000355.html.

Belarus Court Delivers Late Valentine’s Day Teddy Bear Present   18 February 2013

A court in Belarus has sentenced a border guard to two years in prison for failing to report on 4 July 2013 that the plane that had dropped teddy bears with human rights messages over the country had invaded the air space of Belarus.  There are no details about the defendant’s identity.  See http://news.yahoo.com/belarus-guard-2-sentence-teddy-bears-183127500.html.

Bulgarians Protest High Utility Prices    17 February 2013

Bulgarians opposing high utility prices protested today in Sofia and other cities.  They suspect the three foreign utility companies that supply electricity throughout the country, two Czech firms and one Austrian company, of making high profits at the expense of customers living in the poorest country in the European Union.  Albania recently renationalized electricity distribution after cancelling its contract with one of the Czech firms operating in Bulgaria, but the Bulgarian government does not believe it has the legal grounds for such a move.  Read more at http://news.yahoo.com/bulgarians-protest-foreign-power-companies-153248204--finance.html.

Horse Meat Scandal in the EU    16 February 2013

Horse meat legally processed in Romania but illegally mislabeled by a French firm has entered the human food chain throughout Europe.  See http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=172079550 and http://app1.kuhf.org/articles/npr1360973118-Romanian-Horse-Meat-In-British-Lasagna-Reveals-Complex-Global-Food-Trade.html.

Meteor Strikes Chelyabinsk    16 February 2013

A meteor struck the city of Chelyabinsk in Siberia on 15 February, damaging buildings and injured approximately 1,200 people.  For the report in the New York Times, see http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/16/world/europe/meteorite-fragments-are-said-to-rain-down-on-siberia.html?_r=1&.  Photos and videos are at http://top.rbc.ru/incidents/15/02/2013/845289.shtml?autoplay (in Russian).

EU and US to Discuss Free Trade    13 February 2013

The European Union and the United Sates will hold negotiations beginning this summer to arrange a free trade agreement.  News about the talks to create the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership appeared in a joint communique from the American president, Barack Obama, the European Council president, Herman Van Rompuy, and the president of the European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso.  More information is at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/13/us-eu-us-trade-idUSBRE91C0OC20130213; http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-13-95_en.htm; and http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-13-94_en.htm.

Discovery of Richard III    13 February 2013

Archaeologists have discovered the body of England's Richard III (1452-1485, reigned 1483-1485) beneath a parking lot in Leicester.  He was buried in the church that was part of a monastery for Greyfriars, an order of Franciscans.  More information is available at http://www.archaeology.co.uk/articles/news/found-the-lost-church-where-richard-iii-was-buried.htm; http://www.archaeology.co.uk/articles/miraculous-survival-how-richard-iiis-church-was-preserved.htm; http://www.archaeology.co.uk/articles/news/face-to-face-with-richard-iii.htm; http://www.archaeology.co.uk/articles/the-fatal-injuries-of-richard-iii.htm; http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2013/feb/04/richard-iii-dna-bones-king; and http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/12/science/more-dna-tests-to-confirm-skeleton-is-richard-iiis.html?_r=0.

Attempted Assassination in Armenia    8 February 2013

On 31 January, gunmen attacked, Paruir Airikian (also transliterated as Paruyr Hayrikyan), one of eight Armenian presidential candidates and a former dissident during the Soviet era, in his home in Yerevan.  Airikian is recovering, but there is some question as to whether there will be a delay in the elections because, according to the constitution, when one of the candidates cannot participate, a postponement is to occur.  The authorities now have arrested two suspects who have confessed to the shooting.  Airikian, who previously has been a candidate for the presidency, is not among the front-runners in the election.  See http://news.yahoo.com/armenia-presidential-hopeful-shot-wounded-222335237.html and http://news.yahoo.com/armenia-holds-2-attack-presidential-hopeful-131345511.html.

Moldova Investigates Money Laundering    8 February 2013

Moldovan authorities have announced that they are investigating a 2008 money-laundering scheme that involved the Kluyev Group, which is a Russian mafia organization, wiring $53 million in embezzled Russian tax funds to the Banca de Economii, Moldova's largest bank, which then wired it to accounts in Austria, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, and Lithuania, all European Union countries, along with Switzerland and Hong Kong.  The investigation is a test of Moldova's willingness to cooperate with EU authorities as it draws closer to the European Union.  Moldova is scheduled to sign political association and free trade agreements with the EU and is negotiating to eliminate the need for Moldovans to obtain visas to travel to the EU.  See http://euobserver.com/justice/118988.

Russia's Opposition    7 February 2013

For an assessment of the different opposition movements in Russia and their chances for success, see the article by Tatiana Stanovaya, a researcher at the Russian Center for Political Technologies, titled "Opposition(s) in Waiting?" at http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/651.

Bulgaria Implicates Hezbollah in Attack    7 February 2013

Bulgarian authorities have implicated Hezbollah in the July 2012 attack on a bus in Burgas that killed five Israeli tourists and the bus driver, who was Bulgarian.  The action may push the European Union closer to listing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.  See http://euobserver.com/justice/118962.

Toilet from Hitler's Aviso Grille Is in New Jersey    6 February 2013

After the Second World War, Hitler's yacht, the Aviso Grille, found its way to New Jersey and was scrapped.  Parts of it, however, ended up in some surprising locations, including the toilet.  Of course, had Hitler known the fate of his yacht, then the largest in the world, he would have been flushed with embarrassment.   Read more at http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/122641/hitlers-toilet-is-in-new-jersey.

Dr. Miller Leads Tour to Central Europe    4 February 2013

Daniel E. Miller and Lenka Kocková, a travel agent in Prague, will lead a tour to Central Europe from 13-29 June 2013 for individuals, families, and students.  This is the eighth tour group that Dr. Miller has led to the region and the fifth in cooperation with Ms. Kocková.  The trip will begin in Berlin, Germany, and proceed to Dresden, the Czech-Saxony Switzerland National Parks on the border of Germany and the Czech Republic, Terezín Concentration Camp in the Czech Republic, and Prague in the Czech Republic by private motor coach.  The trip from Prague to Vienna, Austria, will be by train, and a private coach will take the participants from Vienna to Bratislava, Slovakia, and to Budapest, Hungary. Throughout the journey, Dr. Miller and Ms. Kocková will provide insight into the history, architecture, and culture of the region, but the tour is designed to provide participants with plenty of time to explore on their own.  Some might wish to visit museums, palaces, and churches, while others will enjoy strolling along historic city streets, sampling a coffee in one of the famous Central European cafés, seeing the sights of the city streets, or attending concerts.  While most of the time will be in urban areas, the group will spend three nights (two full days) in Saxony-Switzerland National Park in Germany, where participants can walk in the fabled woods along the Elbe River in either Germany or the Czech Republic.  On the second day, those who wish to return to Dresden with the tour bus to view the museums may do so.

Those wishing to obtain undergraduate or graduate credit for the course should contact Dr. Miller.  Dr. Miller also will cooperate with professors at other institutions to provide their students with the chance of experiencing study abroad at a remarkably reasonable price.

The price includes ground transportation between cities, all accommodation, usually in four-star hotels, all breakfasts, seven dinners, and some entry tickets to historic structures.  Participants must arrange their own flights to Berlin and from Budapest, or they can have Adventure Travel, a Pensacola, FL, travel agency, book the tickets for them.  Since this is not a packaged tour, there is no specific point of departure.  There also are no penalties for deviations.  This means that participants can make arrangements to fly from their homes to Europe and back without unnecessary stops.  Furthermore, they are able to spend time in Europe before or after the tour in order to explore on their own more of this remarkable part of the world.

For more information, follow the link at the top of the home page of the CentralEuropeanObserver.com, Dr. Miller’s web site or click here.  There are tiles on the tour information page for downloading or printing a text-only PDF with all the details about the tour.  Those interested also may contact Dr. Miller at dmiller@uwf.edu or miller-dem@earthlink.net or send an e-mail to Ms. Kocková at kockovalenka@gmail.com.

Croats Object to Cyrillic Signs    4 February 2013

Croatians are objecting to government plans to reintroduce Cyrillic in street names, signs, official documents, and schools for the country's minority Serb population.  Vukovar, which faced extensive destruction and loss of life during the Yugoslav wars of secession in the first half of the 1990s and has a population that is 35 percent Serb, recently was the location of a large protest by Croats against the proposal.  The EU has standards for the treatment of linguistic minorities, and allowing the minority Serb population to use Cyrillic is a requirement for Croatia's entry into the European Union, which is set for 1 July this year.

In the nineteenth century, Serbs and Croats agreed on a common official language with two separate alphabets in the interest of South Slav unity.  As a result, a Serb could speak with a Croat in standard Serbo-Croatian; however, a Croat would read a text printed in the Latin script, while the Serb would read the same text written in Cyrillic.  Of course, regional spoken dialects existed throughout Croatia and the lands where there were Serbs, as they do with nearly every language.  Since the breakup of Yugoslavia, Serbian and Croatian are treated as separate languages, and academics on both sides have introduced reforms to differentiate the two languages.

See http://news.yahoo.com/alphabet-dispute-revives-old-injuries-croatia-124453485.html.

Gale Stokes (1933-2012)    1 February 2013

Gale Stokes, a professor emeritus of history and former dean at Rice University as well as a Balkan specialist, passed away on 4 November 2012.  Stokes was the author of a multitude of articles and several books, including The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Collapse and Rebirth in Eastern Europe (2nd ed., 2011), Politics as Development: The Emergence of Political Parties in Nineteenth-Century Serbia (1990), and Legitimacy Through Liberalism: Vladimir Jovanović and the Transformation of Serbian Politics (1975).  Stokes edited Yugoslavia: Oblique Insights and Observations (2008), the reports Dennison Rusinow (1930-2004) wrote about Yugoslavia when he was a member of the American Universities Field Staff living in Yugoslavia (1963-1973) and then residing until 1988 in Vienna. 

So many of those in my generation and older who chose careers dealing with the former East European states had some family ties to the region, and I once asked Stokes whether that was the thing that drew him to study Yugoslavia.  "No," he responded, "I flew over the place, and I wanted to know what was down there."  Before he worked on his doctorate, Stokes had spent nine years as an officer in the US Air Force.

An obituary for Stokes is at http://news.rice.edu/2012/11/09/former-humanities-dean-gale-stokes-dies-at-age-79/.

European Commission Report Critical of Romania    Update: 5 February 2013

1 February 2013: A report of the European Commission dated 30 January 2013 criticizes Romania for its slow progress in reforming the judicial system, including its failure to guarantee its independence and integrity, and in eliminating corruption.  The report noted areas of progress in the past six months and pointed out several areas in need of improvement.

A press release from the European Commission about the report is available at http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-13-56_en.htm, and the report is at http://ec.europa.eu/cvm/docs/com_2013_47_en.pdf.

Update, 4 February 2013: An additional perspective on the report is available from the journalist Ioana Burtea at http://neweasterneurope.eu/node/642.

Update, 5 February 2013:
The head of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, has expressed concerns about the criticisms in the Romanian media of the country's justice system.  However, some journalists fear that the government of Victor Ponta will use Barroso's comments and remarks in the 30 January 2013 European Commission report to crack down on the freedom of the press.  See http://euobserver.com/justice/118939.

Additional Attacks on Hungary's Independent Judiciary    1 February 2013

The Hungarian government is attempting to prevent dismissed or retired judges from taking on other "leadership" positions.  Another provision will let the president of the National Judicial Office, who supervises the administration of the courts and can move cases within the court system, negotiate the budget for his office.  Critics see these two measures as additional efforts of Viktor Orbán, prime minister and head of the Fidesz party, to weaken the independence of the Hungarian courts.  See http://euobserver.com/justice/118884.

Despite these problems, the President Barroso of the European Commission praised the progress the EU and Hungary have made in resolving prior differences with respect to laws regarding the judiciary, including the early mandatory retirement age for judges that the Hungarian courts overturned.  Barroso made his comments after a meeting he had with Orbán to discuss budget and economic issues.  See http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-13-74_en.htm.

Latvia Prepares to Enter the Eurozone    1 February 2013

The Latvian legislature passed two laws that pave the way to its January 2014 adoption of the euro.  One brings the country in line with the fiscal discipline standards of other eurozone countries, and the other is a timetable for the adoption of the euro.  Despite the progress the country is making to enter the eurozone, a majority of Latvia's inhabitants are hesitant about the change and lament the loss of identity when the euro replaces the Latvian lat.  See http://euobserver.com/news/118917.

Volgograd Is Stalingrad Once More    1 February 2013

In 1589, the city of Tsaritsyn was established where the Don and the Volga are at their closest point.  In 1925, it became Stalingrad, named after the influential Communist party leader Joseph Stalin.  During the Second World War, the city became famous when the Russians thwarted the Germans' efforts to take the city and cut the petroleum supply line from the Caspian Sea to the Red Army.  The Soviet victory also marks the turning point in the war on the Eastern Front.  After the war, Stalingrad became one of the Soviet Union's dozen Second World War hero cities: Kerch, Kiev, Leningrad, Minsk, Moscow, Murmansk, Novorossiysk, Odessa, Sevastopol, Stalingrad, Smolensk, and Tula.  Brest received the designation of a hero fortress.  After Nikita S. Khrushchev criticized Stalin's excesses, the cult of personality surrounding Stalin disintegrated, and in 1961, Stalingrad became Volgograd once more.  Now a decision of the city council of Volgograd has decided that the city once again will become known as Stalingrad, but only for the six days each year when it celebrates important milestones of the Second World War, including 2 February, the day in 1943 that the German forces attacking the city surrendered (exactly 70 years ago tomorrow) and 9 May, the day in 1945 when the Germans surrendered to the Allies.  See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/9839666/Russia-revives-Stalingrad-city-name.html.

Florida Court Decides on Who Controls Tuition    1 February 2013

The Florida Supreme Court decided that the power to set tuition at the state's universities rests with the legislature and not with the Board of Governors.  The decision comes as Florida's governor, Rick Scott, is promoting the notion of differential tuition that would charge majors in the humanities and social science more than those majoring in science and technology.  See http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/01/31/3210389/florida-supreme-court-legislature.html.

Mark Palmer (1941-2013)    31 January 2013

The American ambassador to Hungary between 1986 and 1990, Robie Marcus Hooker (Mark) Palmer, has died of cancer.  He was instrumental in supporting the transition from communism in the late 1980s, and most recently he was an outspoken critic of the current Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán.  See http://www.politics.hu/20130129/mark-palmer-last-us-ambassador-to-communist-hungary-dies/.

Video of Košice, European Capital of Culture    31 January 2013

A fantastic video on YouTube introduces Košice, Slovakia, as the European Capital of Culture in 2013.  The link for the video is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18PftZp3wOo.  The other European Capital of Culture for 2013 is Marseille, the capital of Provence, France.

News Briefs    31 January 2013

Equality in Health Care in Germany -- The German Federal Social Court has ruled that Bulgarians and Romanians are entitled to health care in Germany, even if they do not have a valid work permit.  See http://euobserver.com/social/118899.

Frozen Aid for Polish Roads -- The European Commission has frozen €4 billion in funds for Polish road construction because a Polish prosecutor has accused 11 individuals of fraud.  All of the accused are linked with projects that received EU funding.  See http://euobserver.com/economic/118897.

Philistine Pedagogy    30 January 2013

On a talk show with the conservative host Bill Bennett, Pat McCrory, the Republican governor of North Carolina, had this to say about gender studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: “That’s a subsidized course.  If you want to take gender studies, that’s fine, go to a private school and take it.  But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.”  He is proposing that universities in the state receive funding based on majors that are most likely to enable graduates to get jobs.  In The Charlotte Observer, Altha Cravey, an associate professor of geography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, responded that the governor "was not elected to decide what has intellectual value and what does not.”  Karey Harwood, an associate professor of religious studies and women’s and gender studies at North Carolina State University added, “I don’t know what kinds of jobs McCrory wishes for UNC graduates, but his comments certainly suggest that he has low expectations for UNC students and for the state of North Carolina, which is disappointing--and insulting,”

Ironically, the notions that McCrory and Governor Rick Scott of Florida are advancing to regulate education in order to produce specific types of graduates is short sighted in many respects.  Such ideas suggest that the humanities and social sciences not only are unimportant but are unproductive.  Those who hold such views should consider what life would be like without art, music, movies, and TV programs.  They should examine not only the statistics that show how many jobs are available in the field of philosophy, for example, as opposed to the graduates with philosophy degrees but the numbers that demonstrate how the creative thinking skills of philosophy majors enable them to succeed in a wide range of fields.  Perhaps they could ask a few philosophy majors: George Soros, Peter Thiel of PayPal, David Souter, Bill Bennett (ironically, the talk show host who was interviewing McCrory), Studs Terkel (deceased, granted, but such a crucial figure in American culture), and many more.

The entire human engineering enterprise, so popular among the top politicians in Florida and North Carolina, is reminiscent of similar efforts of the socialist states before the fall of communism to emphasize science and technology at institutions of higher education in order to build a technologically advanced society and ultimately create a better world.  Governors, that vision failed.

See http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/01/29/3821498/mccrorys-call-to-revamp-higher.html and http://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/north-carolina-governor-wants-to-tie-university-support-to-jobs-not-liberal-arts/54787?cid=pm&utm_source=pm&utm_medium=en.
e here: http:/harlotteobserver.com/2013/01/29/3821498/mccrorys-call-to-revamp-higher.html#storylink=cpy

Oldřich Kulhánek (1940-2013)    30 January 2013

The Czech artist Oldřich Kulhánek died on 28 January just shy of his seventy-third birthday.  The Communist authorities forbade Kulhánek from publishing his works in 1971 after he created a number of lithographs that they perceived as being critical of socialism.  The judge who ordered the works burned actually kept them.  Kulhánek designed the current Czech bank notes as well as a number of postage stamps.  He also is famous for his lithographs that celebrate the human body.  He won a number of awards, and his works are in major museums throughout the world.  In 1995, Kulhánek was a visiting artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida (1991) and at
A Czech 2000 Crown bank note by Kulhánek with the image of the world-famous opera singer Ema Destinnová (1878-1930).  Information on all Kulhánek's bank notes is available at http://www.cnb.cz/en/banknotes_coins/banknotes/.
the University of Houston at Clear Lake in Texas (1995).
  Kulhánek's web site is http://www.oldrichkulhanek.cz/index.php?lang=en.  Some information for this posting came from the article (in Czech) at http://www.praha6.cz/aktuality/ct24-zemrel-oldrich-kulhanek-autor-bankovek-a-cestny-obcan-prahy-6-2013-01-28.html?hwuid=1359560230.

Ukraine's Svoboda Party    30 January 2013

Jakub Parusinski, an editor at the Kyiv Post, which is an English-language newspaper, has written an article analyzing Ukraine's right-wing Svoboda party, which glorifies the heritage of the independence fighters Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukevych.  Svoboda won 37 out of 450 seats in the legislature in October 2012 with increased support in Central and Western Ukraine.  See http://neweasterneurope.eu/node/639.

Miloš Zeman Elected Czech President    27 January 2013

In polling on Friday and Saturday, Miloš Zeman won the runoff election for the presidency of the Czech Republic over his rival, Karel Schwarzenberg.  The results were 55 percent of the vote for Zeman and 45 percent for Schwarzenberg.  It was the first time in the history of the Czech Republic and Czechoslovakia that voters directly elected the president.

Zeman, who was born in 1944 in Kolín, studied at the University of Economics in Prague.  He was a member of the Communist party in the 1960s, but he criticized the Warsaw Pact invasion of 1968 and was expelled.  He was involved in Civic Forum during the 1989 Velvet Revolution and then was a member of the Social Democratic party.  He served as prime minister in 1998-2002, but his government had major problems with corruption.  He left the Social Democratic party and established the Party of Civic Rights–Zemanovci (Strana práv občanů--Zemanovci, SPOZ) that is classified as a social-democratic party.

Like outgoing president Václav Klaus, Zeman does not believe that humans are causing global warming, and he contends that electoral reform is necessary in the Czech Republic in order to guarantee that parties emerge from elections with stronger pluralities or even majorities.  Unlike Klaus, he is a supporter of European integration in the European Union.  Zeman has a good sense of humor, often quite earthy, and he is outspoken.  For a taste of Zeman’s humor, see the film clip on this web site here.

Zeman has an adult son, who is a doctor, from his first marriage.  He married a second time, but he claims that his wife is terribly shy and will not fulfill the functions of the first lady.  Instead, his 19-year-old daughter, Kateřina Zemanová, will play that role.

The Czech president traditionally is influential with the public but is not politically powerful.  The president names judges to the Supreme and the Constitutional Courts as well as board members of the National Bank.  He or she also can veto bills (aside from constitutional amendments), although the parliament can override the veto.  Finally, the president shares with the prime minister certain powers over various judicial appointments, matters of foreign affairs, and amnesty (the amnesty abilities of the presidency may be in question after Klaus's controversial amnesty of thousands of prisoners in January 2013).

The inauguration ceremonies will take place on 8 March 2013.

For a report from Radio Prague about the election, see http://www.radio.cz/en/section/curraffrs/milos-zeman-becomes-first-directly-elected-czech-president.

Opinion: The Czech Presidential Election and Klaus's Departure    26 January 2013

In an article for EUobserver.com, Dariusz Kałan, a research fellow at the Polish Institute of International Affairs in Warsaw, celebrates the pending departure of Václav Klaus as the president of the Czech Republic as the end of an era of strong euroskepticism.  Nevertheless, he warns that the years of Klaus's negativism about EU integration, the lingering economic difficulties, and a history of Czech "opposition to treacherous powers" will not mean that the Czechs suddenly will embrace the EU, even though the two presidential candidates in this weekend's run-off election, Karel Schwarzenberg and Miloš Zeman, promote very positive images of the EU.  See http://euobserver.com/opinion/118860.

Russian Activist Stabbed    25 January 2013

Lyudmila Garifulina, a local legislator in Russia, was stabbed and is in intensive care.  She opposed a development project that would have destroyed a forest near Moscow, and the assault against her may have been linked with her stance on the issue.  The AP article reporting the incident lists several others in Russia who have been beaten because of their resistance to big-business interests.  Such crimes typically go unsolved.  See http://bigstory.ap.org/article/russian-forest-defender-stabbed-outside-her-home.

Try One MOOC Free Then Enroll!–Now Even Coming to UWF!   24 January 2013

A number of universities, including the University of West Florida, will be attracting potential students with something novel: take one MOOC, with credits, free, and then enroll as a full-time student.  The free credits are attractive to students, and the head of Academic Partnerships, the company helping universities initiate its MOOC2Degree promotional program, claims that 72 to 84 percent of those students taking the MOOC (pronounced like a cow’s moo with a k at the end) will register for another course.

While many academics are skeptical about MOOCs, their advocates claim that such courses are every bit as valid as courses taught in the classroom.  Those involved in the MOOC2Degree program appeared to be ambivalent.  Elizabeth Poster, dean of the Arlington nursing college, admitted that “we can’t offer exactly the same resources, because it’s just not possible” in an article that appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  That same article noted that Lawrence Johnson, the interim provost at the University of Cincinnati, an institution which also has joined the Academic Partnerships program, “expressed doubt that the university’s MOOC2Degree courses would be able to provide students with the same level of individual attention, even if the assessments and the professors were the same as those for a typical online course.”

The MOOC2Degree program will take a regular course the institution already offers and convert it into a MOOC that will teach massive numbers of students (some Stanford University MOOCs have enrolled around 10,000 students).  In addition to corralling new students, administrators are hoping that the MOOC2Degree idea will give them an idea of whether a student is good potential material for admission.  Furthermore, the program may weed out individuals who are not prepared to continue as full-time students, thereby reducing the dropout rate after admission, which results in a financial loss to universities, according to the article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The article in The Chronicle of Higher Education is at http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/universities-try-mooc2degree-courses-to-lure-successful-students-to-online-programs/41829?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en.  The website for MOOC2Degree is http://www.mooc2degree.com/.  A video of Randy Best and former Florida governor Jeb Bush promoting MOOCs for Academic Partnerships is at http://www.mooc2degree.com/about.php#.UQEnemd4B8E.

Have a BUD?    22 January 2013

In another of a long series of court battles, the General European Court has ruled against Budějovický Budvar, the Czech brewery from České Budějovice, which attempted to claim BUD as a trade mark, and has instead taken the side of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the manufacturers of Budweiser beer.  In an earlier report available below, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ruled in favor of Budějovický Budvar, allowing it to sell beer in the UK, a huge market for the brewery, under the name Budweiser.  Anheuser-Busch InBev had tried to maintain exclusive rights to the name.  On the General European Court ruling, see http://www.latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-bud-anheuser-busch-budejovicky-budvar-20130122,0,3472018.story.

Fiftieth Anniversary of the Élysée Treaty    22 January 2013

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Élysée Treaty that Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer signed as a treaty of friendship between France and Germany.  More than a mechanism for French and German leaders to consult on common problems, the treaty established youth programs to enable students from each country to learn the language of the other and started a program of German and French sister cities.  A report on the comments of Angela Merkel and François Hollande during a celebration of the treaty is at http://euobserver.com/political/118795.

Serb Plan for North Kosovo: Autonomy    21 January 2013

The prime minister of Serbia, Ivica Dačić, is proposing that the northern part of Kosovo, which has a heavy population of Serbs, become autonomous.  The Kosovar prime minister, Hashim Thaçi, rejects the idea, as do the European Union foreign ministers, who advocate a unified Kosovar administration.  Dačić maintains that autonomy is a solution for other states, including Serbia, and that nothing prevents Kosovo from adopting the plan.  The tension between Serbia and Kosovo raises doubts about whether the EU will hold accession talks with Serbia this spring.  See http://euobserver.com/foreign/118787.

EU Standardizes Driving Licenses    21 January 2013

On 19 January, the European Union began issuing uniform driving licenses that will differ from state to state only by a small symbol on the front.  The purpose of the new license, which resembles a credit card, is to reduce falsified licenses and to simplify recognition.  The EU currently has approximately 100 different plastic and paper licenses that it will phase out gradually.  The EU also has imposed more rigorous standards for obtaining some licenses for such vehicles as mopeds and powerful motorcycles.  To introduce the new licenses, the EU has produced an amazingly comic short film.

See http://www.theportugalnews.com/news/new-european-driving-licence-comes-into-effect/27551 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sE9ZG--lEYE.

Columnist Steven Goldstein on the Myth of a Free Market    21 January 2013

Writing in Florida’s Sun-Sentinel, the columnist Steven Goldstein examined the myth of a free market, which he maintained would be terribly harsh:
But humans can't live up to basic fairness, let alone morality; it's not in our DNA. Left to their devices, businesses too often scalp consumers and rape the economy. Contrary to popular patter, rugged individualist entrepreneurs don't relish competition; they pay lobbyists to "educate" legislators about the wisdom of granting them special deals at the public expense. They relish monopolies and no-bid contracts, especially those that privatize public services and guarantee a steady cash-flow of tax dollars. The legislation that kept us from falling over the "fiscal cliff" is larded with $64 billion worth of tax breaks for electric scooters, rum producers, NASCAR, Hollywood, and others. So much for helping the middle class!

Read the entire article at: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/opinion/fl-sgduel-oped0118-20130118,0,3267560.story.  Information about Goldstein is at: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/opinion/columnists/sfla-opinion-goldstein,0,7684433.columnist.

News Briefs    21 January 2013

Merkel’s Electoral Headache (20 January) -- In Lower Saxony, Angela Merkel’s coalition has lost its majority to a Social Democratic-Green coalition, signifying potential problems for Merkel in future electoral races. See http://news.yahoo.com/merkels-coalition-loses-german-state-vote-230149932.html.

Austria’s Conscript Army to Remain (20 January) -- Voters in neutral Austria narrowly approved a measure to maintain the country’s conscripted army instead of relying on a volunteer force.  More information, including the reasons voters gave for keeping the status quo, is at http://news.yahoo.com/austria-appears-back-status-quo-conscript-army-163012494.html.

Consequences (17 January) -- A review of the controversial Polish film Consequences (Pokłosie), which examines Polish-Jewish relations during the Second World War is at http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/622.  An article about the film in The Economist is at http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2013/01/polands-past.

Russian Activist’s Suicide (17 January) -- A Russian political activist, Aleksandr Dolmatov, committed suicide when the Netherlands denied his asylum request.  See http://www.rferl.org/content/russian-opposition-activist-kills-himself/24855332.html.

Homelessness in Hungary (17 January) -- The Hungarian prime minister, who has imposed fines and jail sentences on the homeless in the past, is considering a constitutional amendment to make homelessness illegal.  In the past year, Hungary’s government has been under attack in the European Union and the international community for its undemocratic stance on many issues.  See http://news.yahoo.com/hungary-homeless-face-winter-fear-return-fines-074819834.html.

Germany’s Gold Reserves (16 January) -- Located in safe the cities of New York and Paris during the cold war, the gold reserves of Germany are due to return home.  See http://euobserver.com/economic/118748.

Tymoshenko’s New Difficulty (19 January) -- Ukrainian authorities are investigating the former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, whom many claim has been jailed for political reasons, on murder charges.  Many observers claim that the regime is attempting to eliminate her permanently from the political scene.  See http://news.yahoo.com/ukrainian-ex-pm-suspected-murder-case-144337950.html.

Albania's Sworn Virgins    16 January 2013

In order to avoid blood feuds, some young women in traditional areas of Albania vow to remain virgins, whereupon they assume a patriarchal role in the family, dawn the clothing of men, and adopt male mannerisms.  The photographer Jill Peters is documenting this dwindling group of women in Albanian society, and some of her photographs are available at Slate.com: http://www.slate.com/blogs/behold/2012/12/21/jill_peters_documenting_sworn_virgins_women_who_live_as_men_in_albania_photos.html.  A trailer for her documentary is at http://cargocollective.com/91east/HeSheHe-Trailer.  Photos also are available at http://news.yahoo.com/photos/sworn-virgins-of-albania-slideshow/sworn-virgins-albania-photo-1166559097.html.

Václav Klaus to Join the Cato Institute    16 January 2013

The Hrad and the Cato Institute announced that after his term as president of the Czech Republic expires, Václav Klaus will travel to Washington to become its distinguished senior fellow, a position at the institution that both Friedrich August von Hayek and the recently deceased James M. Buchanan once held.

Information in English on the appointment is available on Václav Klaus’s web page at http://www.klaus.cz/clanky/3282.  The announcement from the Cato Institute is at http://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/policy-report/2012/11/cprv34n6-3.pdf.  A sampling of Klaus’s podcasts and writings for the Cato Institute are at:
“Twenty Years Since the Fall of Communism”:
“The Struggle Since the Fall of Communism”:
“Three Key Challenges to Freedom”:
“Environmentalism as Religion”:
“The Future of the Euro: An Outsider’s View”:

Bulgarian and Romanian Migrants in the UK    16 January 2013

At the end of this year, UK restrictions on the numbers of Romanian and Bulgarian workers entering the UK will expire.  The UK imposed them in 2007, when Romania and Bulgaria entered the European Union, fearing a flood of migrant workers reminiscent of the Polish case.  In reality, the numbers of migrants have not been high, and the migrants have contributed to the growth of the British economy.  The Bulgarian ambassador to the UK claimed that the fears were unjustified.  See http://euobserver.com/justice/118739.

Klemens von Klemperer (1916-2012)    16 January 2013

German and Austrian historian Klemens von Klemperer (1916-2012) died last December at the age of 96.  Born in Germany, von Klemperer moved to Austria in 1935 because of discriminatory laws in Germany against those with Jewish ancestry (his grandfather had converted from Judaism).  When the Nazis seized Austria, he fled to the United States.  Klemperer completed his degree at Harvard, interrupted by service as an intelligence officer in the US Army during the war.  Afterward, he taught for 37 years at Smith College.  His publications include a landmark work on the assassination attempt against Adolf Hitler in July 1944 and a biography of Ignaz Seipel, the Austrian chancellor between the world wars.  He also wrote a number of insightful chapters and articles, including "Austria, 1918-1920: Revolution by Consensus," Orbis: A Quarterly Journal of World Affairs 10 (1967): 1061-1081.  His obituary in the New York Times is at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/08/world/europe/klemens-von-klemperer-dies-at-96-wrote-of-nazi-era.html?hpw&_r=0.

Budweiser from Budějovice in Britain    15 January 2013

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom supported the claim of Budějovický Budvar, the Czech brewery from České Budějovice, to use the name Budweiser, and ruled against Anheuser-Busch InBev, which demanded exclusive rights to the name Budweiser in the UK.  Although Budějovický Budvar has been in operation since 1895 and Anheuser-Busch began making beer nearly two decades earlier, the tradition of beer making in České Budějovice dates to 1265 and the municipality’s establishment as a royal town with special rights for brewing beer.  The UK is one of the most important export markets for Budějovický Budvar.

See http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/15/budweiser-czech-anheuser-idUSL6N0AK7RF20130115.

A New Type of Pacemaker Tested in Prague    15 January 2013

Prague physicians installed a new type of pacemaker in 16 patients, marking the first time humans have received the device that the American company Nanostim has developed.  Instead of a traditional pacemaker, the new product has no wires, is slightly smaller than an AAA battery (specifically 2.6 mm in diameter and 13.5 mm in length), and installs directly into the heart.  The procedure is quick (approximately 15 minutes), the doctor requires no assistance, and the patient needs no anesthetic.  Nanostim predicts that the device will last between five and eight years, that is, the life of the battery.  The new pacemaker eliminates the problem of electrodes causing infection or malfunctioning.  According Professor Petr Neužil, the head of the Cardiology Department of the Na Homolce Hospital, which performed the operation, the cost of the device likely will not be much higher than pacemakers currently on the market.

See http://www.rozhlas.cz/zpravy/clovek/_zprava/cesi-pouzili-jako-prvni-na-svete-novy-typ-kardiostimulatoru--1162271.  The article is in Czech, but there is an illustration of the Nanostim pacemaker, where it is placed in the hear, and where traditional pacemakers are placed.  Nanostim is a new start-up company whose Linkedin page is http://www.linkedin.com/company/nanostim-inc.

How Long Do You Study?    13 January 2013

The 2011 report from the National Survey of Student Engagement, a consortium of 584 institutions that examine the collegiate experience, indicates how many hours college students prepare for class, based on various majors, and how many hours their instructors expect them to prepare.

Engineering students spend the most time studying–-a total of 19 hours per week.  Social science and business students both spend 14 hours preparing for classes.  Engineering faculty members expect their students to spend 20 hours studying, while social science instructors anticipate their students devote 18 hours to class preparation.  A total of 42 percent of engineering students spend more than 20 hours a week preparing for class, while only 23 percent of social science students devote that much time to studying.  Social science majors spend slightly more time working and caring for family members than do engineering students, and both spend equal times to commute, relax, and participate in co-curricular activities, that is, activities related to a student’s major but outside of the required course work.

Before engineering students gets too smug about how hard their field is or social science students develops an inferiority complex, it is important to remember that this survey relates the experiences of average students.  Were the survey to have analyzed the hours that exceptional students in any major spend preparing for class, the results likely would have revealed that the engineer works as hard as the social scientist.  While this is conjecture, it is based on the experience of this author’s two decades in academia.

The 2011 NSSE report is at http://nsse.iub.edu/NSSE_2011_Results/pdf/NSSE_2011_AnnualResults.pdf#page=16 (see p. 15 but also p. 20).  The web site for NSSE is http://nsse.iub.edu/.  The most recent report is dated 2012.  An article on the 2011 report is located at http://education.yahoo.net/articles/most_demanding_majors.htm?kid=1LCND.

Update: Presidential Elections in the Czech Republic    12 January 2013

Miloš Zeman, the former Social Democratic prime minister, and Karel Schwarzenberg, the current foreign minister, will face each other in two weeks during the final round of voting for the Czech presidency.  This weekend’s election brought a large turnout of voters–61 percent–perhaps because it was the first time that Czechs were able to vote directly for their president.  Zeman received 24.21 percent of the votes, and Schwarzenberg garnered 23.40 percent.  The two candidates many observers expected to do well in the polls were Jan Fischer, who once headed a government of officials, and Jiří Dienstbier, a Social Democratic senator.  They ended up in third and fourth place, respectively, each with slightly more than 16 percent of the vote.  The second round of voting will occur on 25 and 26 January 2013.

Information for this report came from: Radio Prague, http://www.radio.cz/cz/rubrika/zpravy/zpravy-2013-01-12#1, Czech edition; http://data.blog.ihned.cz/c1-59111320-vysledky-voleb-v-grafech-a-cislech-prubezne-aktualizujeme#hlasy; and http://www.tyden.cz/rubriky/domaci/boj-o-hrad/profily-kandidatu_257542.html.  The New York Times has an excellent article that summarizes the elections and explains that both Schwarzenberg and Zeman favor closer ties with the European Union than the current Czech president, Václav Klaus: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/world/europe/rivals-in-czech-presidential-runoff-support-warmer-ties-with-europe.html?_r=1&.

Recent Communist Electoral Successes in the Czech Republic    11 January 2013

In October 2012, 13 regions out of 14 regions in the Czech Republic held elections to the regional councils (the exception was Prague) with a total of 582 seats in question.  The Social Democrats gained an overall plurality of votes, with 205 of the seats, but they are weaker than they were in 2008, when they had 280 seats.  ODS, which is the leading party in the coalition government, also posted a significant loss, dropping from 180 to 102 seats, suggesting its lack of popularity as a ruling party.  Surprisingly, the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia now has 183 seats in the regional councils, a gain of 68 seats, and it is the second most powerful party after the Social Democrats and stronger than ODS.
This New Year's Day greeting by Vojtěch Kocek, a student in Prague, illustrates the great leaders of the Communist movement ringing in the New Year and celebrating the victory of the Czech Communist party in December 2012 (the red area shown in the outline map of the Czech Republic).  In the lower right, Leonid I. Brezhnev of the Soviet Union and Erich Honecker of the German Democratic Republic kiss in 1979 during a celebration of the the thirtieth anniversary of the GDR.  Kocek's montage is based on the art work for a t-shirt by Threadless Tees.  The actual t-shirt is available at http://www.threadless.com/product/383/The_Communist_Party?streetteam=tshirtgroove.

The Communists won pluralities in two regions: the Karlovy Vary Region in the west and the Ústí Region in the northwest.  Ústí now has a Communist governor with Social Democratic backing.  In Southern Bohemia, the Social Democrats formed a coalition with the Communist, and eighteen students protested the Communist presence in the regional government.  Communists are in coalitions that govern nine other of the 13 regions that held elections.

Since the Velvet Revolution of 1989, the Communists always have attracted a number of votes in parliamentary elections, and they reached the peak of their power in 2002, when they won 18.5 percent of the votes to the country’s lower house.  As with the years between the world wars, the Communist party will play a role in Czech politics, but it likely is to be a minor one as a party on the extreme left.  During an interview with Radio Prague, Vladimíra Dvořáková, a political scientist at the University of Economics in Prague, viewed the Communists’ success in last December’s regional elections as a negative vote that expressed the frustration of the voters with politics in the republic.  The fact that the Communists have entered into coalitions with the Social Democrats, often as junior partners, is evidence that they are not the same as they were before 1989, but the following months will reveal precisely what sort of policies they will pursue and how dedicated they are to building compromises.  In short, their actions will determine to what degree they have shed their Marxian-revolutionary past.

Sources: http://www.radio.cz/en/section/curraffrs/analyst-current-government-has-decayed-trust-in-system-helping-the-communists; http://www.radio.cz/en/section/news/news-2012-12-17#4; http://www.radio.cz/en/section/news/news-2012-11-20; http://praguemonitor.com/2012/12/03/%C4%8Dssd-rule-along-communists-10-13-czech-regions.

Corruption Charges in Slovenia    11 January 2013

An official corruption commission has charged the Slovenian prime minister,  Janez Janša, and the opposition party leader and mayor of Ljubljana, Zoran Janković, with corruption.  Protesters that gradually grew to 10,000 in number are demonstrating in the capital to demand the resignation of both men.  Goran Klemenčič, the head of the commission that brought the charges, stated that he would resign if the politicians ignored his findings.  Janša has indicated his willingness to resign.  See http://www.rtvslo.si/rsi/ (for 11 January, 19.00 hours); http://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2013/01/11/slovenias-prime-minister-accused-of-corruption; and http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Entity/People/533914170/Goran-Klemencic.ashx#axzz2HhIx0YhK.

Remains of Göring’s First Wife Identified    11 January 2013

Scientists have positively identified the remains of Hermann Göring’s first wife, Carin.  They were found in a coffin on what was once Göring’s estate, Carinhall, named after Carin, and now have been reinterred in Sweden, where she was born.  See http://news.discovery.com/history/remains-of-nazi-leaders-wife-identified-130103.htm.

Yahoo! Reports on the Czech Republic    11 January 2013

On 10 January, Yahoo! grouped several reports about the Czech Republic.  One report is about the threat of the party Lidem to leave the coalition because the prime minister, Petr Nečas, fired their party’s leader, Karolina Peake, as defense minister shortly after taking office.  Supposedly, Peake made key personnel changes, something she had promised not to do (http://news.yahoo.com/czech-coalition-wants-stay-intact-row-continues-113012639--business.html).  A second report is a general view of the Czech presidential elections that will take place this weekend (http://news.yahoo.com/end-era-czechs-vote-replace-president-klaus-173217598.html).  An article on one of the candidates, Vladimír Franz, views the career of the composer and actor as well as his hopes to become the next president of the republic.  One of the major themes of the article is the tattoos that Franz has over 90 percent of his body (http://news.yahoo.com/despite-face-tattoo-composer-presidential-contender-150638642--abc-news-topstories.html).  Finally, Budějovický Budvar, the original Budweiser beer from České Budějovice, had a peak year for exports in 2012 (http://news.yahoo.com/budvar-beer-exports-reach-record-high-2012-111153332--finance.html).

New Photos of the First World War    11 January 2012

A French antique camera collector found in an old camera several glass negatives showing destruction in France during the First World War.  See http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/world-war-photos-found-inside-antique-camera-203437991.html.

Гражданин Depardieu    11 January 2013

The French actor, Gérard Depardieu, who moved to Belgium and renounced his French citizenship in protest to a tax on millionaires French courts later said was illegal, has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, a resort on the Black Sea, who granted him Russian citizenship.  Russia has a flat tax rate of 13 percent, which is favorable to the wealthy.  In 2011, Depardieu played Rasputin in the French film Raspoutine, which was shot in France and Russia and has played in Russia.  Citizen Depardieu promised President Putin that he will learn Russian.  See http://en.ria.ru/russia/20130106/178607303.html.

Immigration to Poland    9 January 2013

When historians think of migration and Poland, they usually consider the millions of Poles who left partitioned Poland before the First World War for the New World, those who escaped occupied Poland during the Second World War to fight the Nazi regime, émigrés during the cold war, and the steady stream of legendary Polish plumbers who flowed westward after Poland’s entry into the European Union.  Now the tables have turned.  Many Poles are returning home, not because of nostalgia but because of the strong Polish economy.  Furthermore, Poland is attracting other EU citizens, specifically, those with highly marketable talents who are unemployed at home, including many from the Iberian Peninsula.  For two articles that discuss these trends, see http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-Issues/2012/1021/Reverse-brain-drain-Poles-circulate-home-and-out-again-to-Europe and http://www.krakowpost.com/article/6125.

The Presidential Pardons of Václav Klaus    8 January 2013

Occasionally, pardons and amnesties make the news, as did the 79 pardons late last year in California.  Other executives issued much larger numbers of pardons, such as the 3,687 pardons of Franklin D. Roosevelt or the 4,090 pardons of Aleksander Kwaśniewski (president 1995-2005) in Poland.  In Russia, the Duma amnestied 30,000 in 1995 to commemorate the end of the Second World War. Shortly after becoming president in the wake of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989, President Václav Havel amnestied approximately 23,000 individuals in an effort to free those the Communist regime unjustly had imprisoned.  He also granted a number of pardons.

On 1 January, the twentieth anniversary of the creation of the Czech Republic and a few months before his term expires, President Václav Klaus proclaimed an amnesty that has the potential of freeing 7,416 individuals.  This represents about one-third of the 22,638 incarcerated in the republic’s 36 prisons.  Instead of naming specific individuals, Klaus created categories of citizens who would receive amnesties: those sentenced to less than a year in prison, those at least 75 years of age whose prison sentences are no longer than ten years, those in criminal proceedings whose trials have lasted more than eight years and with potential sentences that are less than ten years, those with sentences less than two years who meet certain criteria, and those who will turn 70 years of age whose prison sentences are no longer than three years.  The amnesties include certain provisions and exclusions for those with suspended sentences.  As of 8 January, 6,337 inmates have gained their freedom.

The pardons have shocked many.  The current foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, who is a candidate for the presidency, thinks that those whom the pardons have harmed should receive financial compensation.  The Social Democrats want a vote of no confidence on the government because the prime minister countersigned the pardons without consulting his cabinet.  Approximately 600 mayors and some school principals have removed portraits of Klaus in their offices in protest. Public offices, including classrooms, in the Czech Republic display the portrait of the president, a tradition left over from the Habsburg Monarchy.

In an interview on 8 January, Klaus reminded listeners that an amnesty means a second chance for those who have not committed horrendous crimes.  He viewed the furor over the amnesties as a political ploy and a “giant manipulation by the media.”  Klaus also indicated that he may issue a wave of pardons before he leaves office.

Sources: http://www.ceskenoviny.cz/news/zpravy/czech-president-declares-amnesty-on-20-years-of-czech-republic/883710; http://www.radio.cz/en/news#2; http://www.rozhlas.cz/zpravy/politika/_zprava/cssd-chce-o-neduvere-vlade-hlasovat-ve-snemovne-uz-pristi-tyden--1159115; http://www.rozhlas.cz/zpravy/politika/_zprava/top-09-navrhuje-kompenzace-pro-poskozene-amnestii-podle-opozice-je-to-nesmysl--1159017; http://www.rozhlas.cz/zpravy/politika/_zprava/protesty-proti-amnestii-pokracuji-obrazy-klause-mizi-z-dalsich-uradu-a-skol--1158690; http://www.rozhlas.cz/zpravy/regiony/_zprava/klausuv-portret-na-protest-proti-amnestii-sundavaji-urady-i-skoly--1158573; and http://www.rozhlas.cz/zpravy/politika/_zprava/prezident-exkluzivne-amnestie-mela-byt-podnetem-ke-zmene-systemu--1159018.

Presidential Elections in Slovenia and the Czech Republic    7 January 2013

This coming weekend, citizens of the Czech Republic will go to the polls for the first time in history to elect the country’s president.  Previously, the parliament elected the president, which traditionally has had a stronger role in politics than presidents in many countries, for example, in Germany, although the Czech president’s powers are not as strong as the American president enjoys.  The move to a popular election occurred after the last presidential election, which was highly contested.  Some rumors claim that the current president, Václav Klaus, only managed to win the vote for a second (and legally final) term after brokering deals with legislators.  In December, authorities authorized eight candidates (see http://praguemonitor.com/2012/11/26/interior-ministry-selects-8-presidential-candidates).  The front runner appears to be Jan Fischer, and the list of candidates includes Vladimír Franz, an artist and composer who has tattoos over nearly all of his body (for the list, see http://www.radio.cz/en/static/presidential-elections-2013/).  The entire process has had complications.  Several candidates complained that the Ministry of the Interior improperly disqualified them for having received too few petition signatures, and many feel the law that set up the popular vote is flawed (see http://www.radio.cz/en/section/curraffrs/rejected-presidential-candidate-lodges-complaint-against-election-law).

In December, Slovenians went to the polls to elect their president, and the incumbent, Danilo Türk, lost to Borut Pahor.  Many observers believe that Pahor, a Social Democrat, won the election over the incumbent because Slovenia has experienced economic difficulties and has had to accept a bailout from the European Union.  See http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/02/us-slovenia-election-idUSBRE8B10DZ20121202.

New Law May Threaten Romania's Media    7 January 2013

Romania's prime minister, Victor Ponta, is close to implementing a new law that will weaken the country's s National Audiovisual Council (CNA) by requiring courts to approve its decisions.  Many view Ponta's action as another step in his efforts to increase his grip on power.  See http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/610.

Latvia: Not a Success Story for Austerity    7 January 2013

To handle its economic crisis, Latvia slashed its budget and reduced its deficit to 1 percent.  Wages remained the same, and that kept Latvia economically competitive, allowing its economy to grow rapidly in the past few years.  In contrast, Iceland defaulted and its currency plummeted, but its economy declined to a much lower level than Latvia.  In the end, Latvia's growth seems impressive because its economy had dropped to such a low level.  An article explaining Latvia's situation is at http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/01/sorry-latvia-is-no-austerity-success-story/266774/.

Unequal University Tuition in Florida    7 January 2013

John Villasenor, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a professor of electrical engineering at the University of California at Los Angeles, has written a commentary criticizing the plan in Florida to charge lower tuition for students in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) while forcing those in the humanities and social sciences to pay more.  Not only is Villasenor's analysis of the situation compelling, the majority of the comments from academics across the country find fault with Florida's proposals.  The article and comments are available at http://chronicle.com/article/In-Defense-of-Equal-Tuition/136475/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en.  The recommendations of the "Blue Ribbon Task Force on State Higher Education Reform" dated 6 November 2012 are at http://www.slideshare.net/FLHigherEd/blue-ribbonfinaltogovernorscott.

Greece and the EU in 2012    4 January 2013

Since 2010, the Greek debt crisis has dominated the economic news with speculation that Greece would default and that the stronger eurozone countries would allow Greece to withdraw from the common currency in order not to cripple the euro.  Even more pessimistic soothsayers predicted the collapse of the European Union experiment, some claiming that it had outlived its usefulness after the cold war.  Based on the nearly overwhelming desire of Europe’s population and its leaders to maintain stability and deepen integration, it seemed unrealistic to many, including this author, that they would desert the Greeks or end the European experiment.

Events in late 2012 confirm the opinion that the EU and the euro along with the EU will survive and thrive.  Despite the difficulties the Greeks faced in crafting austerity measures that are imperfect and difficult for the population, tempers have cooled, and the Greek government appears to be stable.  European finance ministers in December released €49.1 in bailout funds (see http://euobserver.com/news/118522).  The EU has adopted a European-wide patent law and a banking union that makes the European Central Bank the watchdog of Europe’s banks (see the article immediately below).  Furthermore, the EU took the final steps to admit Croatia on 1 July 2013, and all indications are that Latvia, the EU’s fastest growing economy, is poised to adopt the euro on 1 January 2014 (see http://euobserver.com/economic/117935).  Such an optimistic assessment is not unique, as savvy investors realize.  As so many became skidish about the Greek economy and withdrew their money from the Greek economy for safer ground, others recognized that they can bank on EU stability at reasonable prices.  As a result, Europe’s top performing stock market in 2012 was not the German DAX, as many might assume, but the ATHEX in Greece, which is up 33 percent (http://money.cnn.com/2012/12/31/investing/stocks-greece/index.html).

Indeed, 2013 promises to be an exciting year in the EU.

Recent EU Milestones    4 January 2013

Near the end of 2012, the European Union passed two important measures that deepen its process of integration.  First, the banking union creates the European Central Bank (ECB) as the overseer of all banking operations of the eurozone and any other EU member states that wish to be part of the process.  This is the first time that the EU has one monitoring agency for its banks, which currently number approximately 6000.  See http://ec.europa.eu/news/economy/121214_en.htm and http://euobserver.com/news/118516.

The second accomplishment is a European-wide patent law that will eliminate the need to seek patents in multiple countries.  Because only three of the official languages will apply to the patent process, Spain and Italy have opted out of the program.  As a result, the new patent law applies to 25 of the EU’s 27 member states.  See http://euobserver.com/political/118490.

The Revival of Silesian Identity and Katowice    4 January 2013

Katowice, the administrative capital of Silesia, Poland, anticipates its new Muzeum Śląskie, which will be a mixture of new construction and refurbished older industrial structures, and the city will have a new look after several of its major buildings undergo renovation.  Katowice failed in its attempt to become Europe’s city of culture in 2016, but there is some consolation, however, in knowing that Katowice lost its 2016 bid to Wrocław, the capital of Lower Silesia, which is not far from Katowice.  Regardless of which city received the honor, the international attention that will come to the region will bolster the economy and support those who maintain that Silesian identity is unique and that its language is not merely a dialect of Polish.  See http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/540.

Updates about Ukraine and Belarus    4 January 2013

Ukraine under President Yanukovych continues to pursue undemocratic policies, despite international criticism.  A series of articles about the country appears in the on-line version of New Eastern Europe at http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/section/unravelling-ukraine.  The brawl in the Rada, Ukraine’s legislature, over the language bill that was to give Russian equal status to Ukrainian in certain parts of the country the is mentioned in one of the NEE articles made international headlines.  A humorous yet sad clip showing the legislators fighting from the BBC is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fadIvRtayts.  The European Union, with its typical flare for using economics as a bargaining tool, has promised Ukraine a new trade agreement, but it first must take certain steps to strengthen its judiciary and reform its criminal codes.  A report on the initiative is at http://euobserver.com/foreign/118478. The Poles have attempted to be the mediators between Ukraine and the EU, and an interview with Poland’s former president, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, who has been involved with negotiations personally, is at http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/490

Belarus, in many respects, is less democratic than Ukraine, but the country hardly gets any attention in the West.  Its elections last September confirmed the regime’s grip over the country, and information about the polling is at http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/484.  Earlier articles about the election are at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-19690249, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/24/belarus-elections-2012-parliament_n_1908928.html, http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/europe/12/19/belarus.election/index.html, and
http://news.yahoo.com/belarus-holds-elections-boycotted-opposition-050852641.html.  An article on Belarus’s President Lukashenka is at http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/596.

Updates about Lithuania    4 January 2012

In October, Lithuanian voters went to the polls, but they got no government until late November because of a run-off election and the president’s refusal to approve a government that included the scandal-ridden Labour party.  On the first round of elections, see http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2012/10/lithuanias-election.  The results of the second round are at
http://www.eldr.eu/en/news/lithuanian-members-ahead-after-first-round-elections and
http://www.baltic-course.com/eng/analytics/?doc=64334.  The details about the formation of the government under Social Democratic leadership are at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/butkevicius-approved-as-lithuanian-premier-8346341.html.  An article describing the situation in Lithuania, including the charges the Labour party faces and Lithuania’s assumption of the EU presidency, is at http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/579.

Košice: European Capital of Culture in 2013    3 January 2013

Košice, Slovakia, as well as Marseille, France, are the 2013 European capitals of culture.  Košice, the second largest city in Slovakia, has a recorded history that dates to the thirteenth century.  It was a free town in the Kingdom of Hungary, and in the fourteenth century, the citizens displayed their wealth, partly a result of their city’s location on an important trade route, when they constructed St. Elizabeth Cathedral, the easternmost Gothic cathedral in Europe.  As part of Hungary, the inhabitants of Košice (Kassa in Hungarian) were approximately three-quarters Hungarian, but today, less than 75 percent of the population is Slovak, less than 3 percent is Hungarian, and nearly 20 percent are of undeclared ethnicity.  The largest industry in the city is the USSteel facility, which may be up for sale.

The EU announcement of the Capitals of Culture in 2013 is at http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-13-1_en.htm?locale=en.  Košice’s web site in English for the festive year is http://www.kosice2013.sk/en.  Articles about Košice are available at http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/europe/every-street-tells-a-story-in-kosice-8390799.html and http://www.dw.de/slovakias-kosice-invests-in-the-future/a-16468700.  CNN recently placed Košice third on its list of top travel destinations for 2013.  See  http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/01/travel/top-destinations-2013/index.html.  An older article in the New York Times about Košice’s preparations for the 2013 celebrations is at http://travel.nytimes.com/2008/08/10/travel/10next.html?_r=0.

Herbert von Karajan’s Nazi Past    3 January 2013

Oliver Rathkolb from Vienna University has researched the life of the Berlin Philharmonic’s famous conductor, Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989), who was born in Salzburg, Austria, and has revealed important elements of his right-wing and Nazi past.  Despite his association with the Nazi movement, von Karajan’s wife was one-quarter Jewish, but Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945) interfered with an investigation into her past so that von Karajan could marry her.  See http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gkiiT1B3n-Ml34UzwZsI2lFv3qDQ?docId=CNG.7949765010d50229bc1ba4f99d26216a.71.

Number of Academic Positions for Historians Increases    3 January 2013

The American Historical Association reported in its Perspectives newsletter that the number of academic positions for historians increased to 740 in 2011-2012 from 627 the previous academic year.  The number of newly-minted graduates with doctorates, however, was 1100.  Of course, a few of the advertised positions were for more senior historians, and the new graduates had to compete with those already with assistant professor positions seeking to relocate and unemployed graduates from previous years.  The numbers of positions increased in every field, aside from world history.  See http://www.historians.org/Perspectives/issues/2013/1301/2012-Jobs-Report.cfm.

Two Decades after Czechoslovakia: A Belated Requiem    1 January 2013

On the morning of 1 January 1993, two decades ago, I sat with my second ex-wife, a Czech born in České Budějovice, to watch the news on CNN.  We waited for the coverage of the peaceful breakup of Czechoslovakia, but there were two events dealing with borders.  First, there was news about the implementation of the Single Market Act in the European Union.  As the commentator spoke, a clip showed guards on the German-French border raising the gates to allow for the free flow of vehicular traffic and then returning to their guard booths to collect their belongings before heading home.  Seconds later, another clip showed gates lowering at a temporary border installation on the Czech-Slovak border.  Czechoslovakia was no more.

To read more about the experiences my family and I have had with Czechoslovakia in its various forms, click here.

A New Year Tradition: The Vienna Philharmonic    1 January 2013

Central European Observer wishes all our readers the best for 2013!

Be sure to tune in to your local PBS station for the annual New Year's celebration with the Vienna Philharmonic under the direction of Franz Welser-Möst and with Julie Andrews as the host. It will air live on Tuesday, January 1 at 2.30 pm EST with an repeat performance that evening at 8.00 pm.  In keeping with the Viennese tradition, be prepared to clap when the orchestra plays the Radetzky March by Johann Strauss (the elder).  Check your local listings at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/episodes/from-vienna-the-new-year%E2%80%99s-celebration-2013/about-the-concert/1478/.