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

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

Check this web page for occasional posts containing news and commentary, mainly about events in Central Europe.  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 Second Quarter of 2015

Georgia’s Slow Shift toward Russia    8 April 2015

Georgia has been supportive of integration into western institutions, such as the EU and NATO, but the growing support for improving ties with Russia is disconcerting for many, especially considering that Russia has sponsored a separatist movement in approximately one-fifth of the country.  According to a poll that the National Democratic Institute conducted, there is growing support for membership in Russia’s Eurasian Union–a jump of 20 percent of Georgians in the middle of 2014 from nearly half that number in late 2013.  There is a rising number of parliamentarians who are in favor of better relations with Russia, and they have an important ally in the Georgian Orthodox Church.  The most important politician supporting Georgian membership in the Eurasian Union is Nino Burjanadze, who garnered 10 percent of the votes in the last presidential election.

Greek Prime Minister in Moscow    8 April 2015

The Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, and President Vladimir Putin are meeting in Moscow to discuss their countries’ relations and possible economic deals.  Tsipras is turning to Russia because of an impasse in the negotiations with the European Union regarding Greece’s austerity program and the need to begin repaying bailout money.  Russia may provide loans to Greece, purchase certain Greek assets, and access Greek ports.  The Russians are reviewing the possibility of approving food imports from Greece, and they are considering resuming food imports from Hungary and Cyprus, two other countries in the EU that are pursuing good relations with Russia.  See http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/07/alexis-tsipras-flies-to-moscow-speculation-greek-bailout-vladimir-putin.

American Ambassador Not Welcome at the Prague Castle    8 April 2015

Because the American ambassador, Andrew Schapiro, criticized President Miloš Zeman’s upcoming visit to Moscow to attend ceremonies commemorating the end of the Second World War, the president announced that the ambassador is not welcome at the Prague Castle.  The ban does not include general social functions.  Shapiro stated that it would be “awkward” for Zeman to be the only European Union head of state to attend the ceremonies.  Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka stated that Zeman’s approach to diplomacy should be “somewhat more professional.”  See http://news.yahoo.com/czech-president-bans-u-ambassador-prague-castle-media-015233972.html.

Four New Metro Stops in Prague    8 April 2015

Prague’s A Metro line has four new stations.  One is Nádraží Veleslavín, which will provide access by bus to the airport.  The intermodal station that links busses, trains, trams, and the metro lacks an escalator for the last trek to the surface, so the airport has provided porters to help people with luggage.  Barrier-free access will be part of the future modernization of the train station.  The new final stop for the A line is Motol Hospital, and the trip from the city center to Motol will take 15 minutes.  For a series of photographs and four videos of the new stations, see http://praha.idnes.cz/foto.aspx?r=praha-zpravy&c=A150402_151033_praha-zpravy_bur.  For additional information in English, see http://www.praguepost.com/the-big-story/46626-new-section-of-metro-s-line-a-opens-in-prague.

Solidifying the EU’s Porous Borders     8 April 2015

In order to control migration between Poland and Russia’s Kaliningrad, Poland will erect six watchtowers along the border.  The intent is to prevent illegal crossings along the visa-free border, and Polish authorities explained that plans for the watchtowers predate the Ukraine crisis.  See https://euobserver.com/foreign/128250.

In 2013-2014, Bulgaria erected a twenty-mile fence along its border with Turkey, and illegal immigration fell from 11,000 in 2013 to 4,000 in 2014.  Now, the Bulgarians will extend the fence, with funds from the European Union, but the illegal immigrants likely will find other ways to get into the EU, such as sea crossings into Greece.  The Bulgarians are hoping that the fence will reduce illegal immigration enough for their country to enter the Schengen area.  Some Bulgarians, however, lament the return of such a barrier, which is reminiscent of the barbed wire and mines that existed during the communist era.  See http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/06/world/europe/bulgaria-puts-up-a-new-wall-but-this-one-keeps-people-out.html?_r=0.