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Editor: Eugene Imas

Country News Digest Vol.3, Issue #12


11/18/13-11/22/13

Contributors: -Risa Chubinsky -Glyn Cozart -Joseph Gates -Thomas Hyde -Katharine Quinn-Judge

After a landmark meeting with his Armenian counterpart on Tuesday, President Ilham Aliyev travelled to Minsk on Wednesday for two days of meetings with President Lukashenko. The two discussed a range of issues relating to economic cooperation. Azerbaijan has become a key trade partner for Belarus in past years, with trade turnover between the two countries increasing six-fold between 2006 and 2012. Articles: Trend.az RFE/RL

Azerbaijan

Country News Digest


Russia

On Sunday evening a Boeing-737 Tatarstan Airlines airliner crashed at the Kazan airport in Russia, killing all 44 passengers and six crew members aboard. An investigation by the Interstate Aviation Committee concluded that the crash was due to pilot error. ABC News

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BBC

New Georgian Dream president Giorgi Margvelashvili was sworn in on Sunday. In his speech, Margvelashvili vowed to work with the EU and NATO, and to reach out to the disputed territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. However, the new president will have noticeably less power than outgoing president Mikheil Saakashvili, since many presidential duties have been transferred to the role of the prime minister, soon to be Irakli Garibashvili.

Georgia

Civil.ge

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On October 21, Ukraine decided to delay signing an association agreement with the EU at the upcoming Vilnius Summit. In a decision that shocked EU representatives, Ukraines Cabinet said that signing the agreement would weaken its economy and that it needed to strengthen ties with Russia. Ukraine also rejected a law that would let former PM Yulia Tymoshenko receive medical treatment in Germany, which was a stipulation of the EU agreement.

Ukraine

RFE/RL

RIA Novosti

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Kyiv Post

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan met with Azeribaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Tuesday in Vienna to discuss the Nagorno-Karabkah dispute between the two countries. The meeting, facilitated by the OSCE Minsk Group, is the first meeting between the two presidents in two years. Both presidents have agreed to further talks in the near future, a decision which has been met with support by members of the international community.

Armenia

RFE/RL

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Uralkali CEO Baumgertner has been extradited back to Russia after months under house arrest in Belarus. He is now in a Moscow jail while the Investigative Committee considers filing its own charges based on his breach of a former trade agreement. President Lukashenko refused to extradite Baumgertner unless Russia pressed criminal charges. He was placed under arrest in absentia October 21, but it is unclear how severe his charges will be in Russia.

Belarus

RIA Novosti

Bloomberg

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RIA Novosti

Exiled Kurdish singer Sivan Perwer has returned to Turkey and will reclaim his citizenship. Perwers songs dealt with Kurdish oppression, and he went into exile in 1976. His return has been attributed to Prime Minister Erdogans warming relations with the PKK. While many Kurds are delighted to have a national icon return home, some feel that the singer has aligned himself with a manipulative prime minister. Articles: World Bulletin BBC

Turkey

Moldovan Premier Iurie Leanca met Wednesday with Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev to discuss a series of accords, including a legal framework to protect the rights of Moldovan citizens working in Russia. The two also discussed resuming Moldovan wine imports to Russia. Russia banned Moldovan wine in September, and threatened to ban Moldovan workers soon thereafter actions which international observers have termed politically motivated. Teleradio Moldova Articles: Moldova.org

Moldova

Akhmatbek Keldibekov, a parliamentary deputy from the opposition Ata Jurt party, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of corruption. Officials say he misappropriated funds while serving as head of various state organs during the early 2000s. Kyrgyzstans General Prosecutor, Aida Salyanova, says Keldibekov may face up to 10 years in jail. Ata Jurt head Kamchibek Tashiev calls the charges politically motivated. Articles: Azattyk Kloop.kg

Kyrgyzstan

Country News Digest

US officials came to an agreement with Afghan president Hamid Karzai on the language of a post-2014 security agreement. For the agreement to come into force, however, a council of elders must approve the document. Timing also remains an issue, with the US pushing Karzai to sign the document by the end of this year while Karzai favors delaying the decision until a new president is elected in early 2014. Articles: Reuters USA Today

Afghanistan

Deputies from Kazakhstans ruling party told the press this week that they oppose Putins vision for the formation of a Eurasian Union Parliament. Their stated grounds for concern include the principles of equality, respect, and preservation of state sovereignty, and the existence of other inter-state parliaments, such as that of the CSTO and the CIS. The issue is expected to be taken up at a meeting of CSTO and CIS members later this month.

Kazakhstan

Sayasat

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On Wednesday delegations from Iran and the P5+1 countries reconvened in Geneva for another three-day round of negotiations over Irans uranium enrichment program. A senior European diplomat described Thursdays meetings as constructive but not conclusive. Irans Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi remains optimistic in reaching a deal, but suggested in recent interviews that the momentum of the previous round of negotiations had slowed.

Iran

Tengri News

Al Jazeera

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Reuters

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, who was reelected to a fourth term earlier this month, dismissed the countrys defense minister Sherali Hairulloev on Wednesday due to health problems. Hairulloev, who served as defense minister for over eighteen years, will be replaced by Sheralisho Mirzo, current commander of the Tajik Border Forces.

Tajikistan

Four soldiers in Turkmenistan have died this week after ingesting poison-laced sausage intended to be used on stray dogs and cats. Hungry after a long day of cotton picking, the soldiers discovered the toxic salami in a farm shops backroom fridge and helped themselves, tragically unaware that the farmshop was used to store products designed to control the stray animal population. BBC

Turkmenistan

RFE/RL

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Trend.az

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Khronika

Members of Gulnara Karimovas youth initiative, Voice of the Future, were arrested Wednesday on charges of terrorism. Karimovas Twitter page announced that night that she had visited a Tashkent police headquarters in an unsuccessful attempt to free the 10 students activists; on Thursday, she announced she was ceasing Twitter activities for the next few weeks. These events have been termed the latest indicators of Karimovas fall from political favor. Articles: UzNews Ozodlik

Uzbekistan

The governor of Mongolias central bank has issued a prediction for his countrys GDP growth in 2014 that it is well above projections made by the World Bank. Specifically, Naidansuren Zoljargal believes that Mongolia will experience 17% growth, thanks in large part to an anticipated deal with Rio Tinto that will allow the Oyu Tolgoi mining project to expand into its second phase.

Mongolia

Wall Street Journal

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BNE

Estonia has officially become a member of the International Energy Agency. Minister of Economic Affairs Juhan Parts says Estonia plans to use its membership to support global shale oil production. IEA analysis of Estonia shows that it is dependent on shale oil and Russian gas. Estonia began accession talks with the IEA in 2011.

Country News Digest

Estonia

On Tuesday the Czech government agreed to provide 1 million euros in aid to Bulgaria in order to reduce migration pressure from the influx of Syrian refugees in the country. Czech Interior Minister Martin Peci will make the official announcement in December after technical and legal logistics are firmly established. Standart

Czech Republic

ERR

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Baltic Times

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Sofia Globe

On November 20 the European Committee approved 448 million euros ($606 million) in loans and aid towards the construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal in the Lithuanian port city of Klaipeda. The terminal is scheduled to come online by December 2014 and will greatly reduce Lithuanias dependence on natural gas from Russia.

Lithuania

Ukraine and Slovakia are finalizing a deal that will allow the EU to ship gas to Ukraine through Slovakia, in order to help Ukraine reduce its dependence on Russian energy. European Commission spokeswoman Holzner said that the content of the deal had been agreed upon, and that they planned to sign it in the next few days. Gas would be shipped through existing, unused pipelines using a physical reverse flow.

Slovakia

Reuters

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Bloomberg

EurActiv

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Reuters

At least 45 people are dead after the roof of a Riga supermarket collapsed on Thursday. Authorities are still investigating the cause of the collapse, but some reports place the blame on the presence of building materials on the roof that were going to be used in the construction of a roof-top garden.

Latvia

Eleven banks have been fined a total of $43 million for collusion by the Hungarian competition watchdog. The banks have been tried for a scheme regarding clients repayment of foreign currency mortgages, resulting in significant losses to many of the countrys other foreign-owned banks. The two banks with the highest fines, Hungarian OTP and Austrian Erste, have vowed to appeal the ruling.

Hungary

CNN

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BBC

Reuters

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Fox

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Warsaw ends this week. Unfortunately, the conference has been marred by several incidents, most notably, the firing of the Environment Minister and conference president, Marcin Korolec. Poland has also come under fire for refusing to agree on a timetable for an agreement on climate change, and for simultaneously hosting a conference supporting the coal industry. Los Angeles Times Articles: Reuters

Poland

On January 1, restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian immigration to the UK will be lifted, causing concerns within the UK about a mass influx of workers into their labor market. The UK is one of nine countries removing immigration controls, offering a wide range of countries in the eurozone as options for Romanian immigration. British Immigration Minister Harper eased fears by saying he expected these immigrants to go to Germany, Italy and Spain. Articles: Guardian Telegraph

Romania

Protests against Bulgarias government continued this week, marking over 160 days of public outcry against the leaderships ties to shady businessmen. Students were joined on Wednesday by 4,000 members of Bulgarias largest trade union, CIT UB, who are demanding a 10 percent increase in public sector salaries and reforms to the healthcare and energy sectors. Articles: Businessweek EuroNews

Country News Digest


Croatia

Bulgaria

Workers were on strike at Zagreb airport, Croatias largest airport, on Thursday and Friday. Unions are protesting airport operations and job protection policies after management of the airport was transferred to a French-led consortium last year. Over 120 flights have already been cancelled. World Bulletin

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Businessweek

After over a week of country-wide protests, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has rejected a US request to host the destruction of Syrias chemical arsenal, reversing his previous stance on the issue. Commentators say this is the first time a prime minister of the heavily US-dependent nation has refused a direct request from Washington. The fact that the policy reversal was triggered by peaceful protests is also being hailed as unprecedented.

Albania

Reuters

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Turkish firm Global Ports Holdings has acquired a 62% majority stake in Montenegros Port of Bar, its largest commercial port. GPH will operate, repair, and finance the port for 30 years. The ports need for renovation has limited its success, although it has the capacity to handle up to one million TEU each year. GPH wants to attract traffic from surrounding countries as well as Royal Caribbean Cruises.

Montenegro

Balkan Insight

Port Technology

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Dredging Today

Serbian tycoon Miroslav Miskovic has pled not guilty to charges of embezzlement and tax fraud. Miskovic started an insurance and real estate empire in the 1990s that is expected to generate 700 million euros worth of revenue this year. The arrest has been seen as a sign of of Serbias attempt to crack down on corruption. Miskovic is on trial with his son and nine others. If convicted, he will face up to ten years in jail.

Serbia

Yahoo!

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IOL

The city of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo voted in municipal elections for the second time this month on Sunday, after the November 3 country-wide polls were marred by violence. The mayoral race produced two leaders, both ethnic Serbs, who will compete in a runoff on December 1. The elections are crucial to Aprils EU-brokered deal between Kosovo and Serbia, which says Serbia must concede Pristinas authority in Serb-dominated north Kosovo.

Kosovo

b92

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Balkan Insight

Macedonia has announced that it will begin construction on a new railroad connecting Macedonia and Bulgaria in February. The long awaited rail link between the two countries will go from Skopje to Stip, and is expected to be completed in 2022, costing upwards of 445 million euros. The railroad plans are said to have improved tense relations between Bulgaria and Macedonia.

Macedonia

Stanko Stepisnik, Slovenias Economy Minister, stepped down this week following reports that a company he owns received state subsidies from his own ministry. The dismissal of Stepisnik, who is a member of Prime Minister Bratuseks center-left party, is not expected to affect Slovenias chances of avoiding an international bailout.

Slovenia

BalkanInsight

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Novinite

Reuters

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Global Post

Country News Digest


On Tuesday a Bosnian Bosnia & court orderded the release Herzegovina of ten men convicted of war crimes due to legal error. The ten men, six of whom participated in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, were serving sentences of up to 33 years and pending retrial when the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the men were tried under the wrong criminal code and thus subject to release. BBC

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RFE/RL

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