"What's New? How Is the World Treating You?"
Table of Contents for the First Quarter of 2013
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
€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.
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/.
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.
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.
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.
ó, 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.
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:
Press Release: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-12-679_en.htm?locale=enThe link to the survey through the European Commission is: http://ec.europa.eu/languages/languages-of-europe/eurobarometer-survey_en.htm.
Executive Summary: http://ec.europa.eu/languages/documents/eurobarometer/e386summary_en.pdf
Full Report (145 pp.): http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_386_en.pdf
Country Data: http://ec.europa.eu/languages/languages-of-europe/e386-factsheets_en.htm
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.
mocracy, 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.
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.
é 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The president of Bulgaria, Rosen Plevneliev, has set 12 May as the date for new elections. Since 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or send an e-mail to Ms. Kocková at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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/.
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.
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.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18PftZp3wOo. The other European Capital of Culture for 2013 is Marseille, the capital of Provence, France.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”:
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.
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.
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&.
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.
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.http://news.discovery.com/history/remains-of-nazi-leaders-wife-identified-130103.htm.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2012/10/lithuanias-election. The results of the second round are at
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.
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.
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.
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/.