News from Central and Eastern Europe, Monday 20th May 2013

EUROPE

Comment – New Stateman: The stereotypes used against Eastern Europe are as old as they are wrong. ‘If you’ve been following the news recently, you are likely to have come across scare stories suggesting there will be a wave of immigration from Romania and Bulgaria. Newspapers often illustrate reports with pictures of ghetto-like Roma settlements in those two countries as their evidence for such a claim. The Sun on 1 March ran the headline “No wonder so many in Romania want a new life in Britain. Revealed: grime life inside Gypsy ghetto,” with the strapline “No wonder 350,000 Romanians are heading to Britain”.

An online petition led to a debate in Parliament on 22 April on whether immigration from these two EU Member States should be halted. The point that Romanians and Bulgarians have been able to freely travel and live in the UK as self-employed workers since 2007 is overlooked, as is the fact that Britain (and other EU States) can’t legally extend employment restrictions beyond December 2013.

The Roma stereotype is not new, but a continuation of ingrained prejudice.’

Chicago Tribune: Crowds break up gay rights rallies in Georgia, Russia. ‘Large crowds of anti-gay protesters broke up homosexual rights rallies in Georgia and Russia on Friday, underlining deep hostility in the former Soviet bloc.

Priests and thousands of Georgians pushed their way through police barriers protecting around 50 people marking International Day Against Homophobia in a square in capital Tblisi.

Waving banners marked with the slogans “Stop Homosexual Propaganda in Georgia” and “Not in our city”, they forced the small groups of campaigners to flee in buses.

In the Russian city of St Petersburg, an aggressive, mostly male crowd threw smoke bombs over police barriers and shouted “Death to Faggots” and other insults.

A hugely outnumbered band of gay rights campaigners also had to pile into buses minutes after the start of their rally.

“Stalin would have showed you and exiled all these,” a man dressed in urban camouflage shouted as activists hurried away.

Attitudes towards gay people in Russia and former Soviet states are largely shaped by repressive Stalin-era policies, when sodomy was punishable by up to five years in jail.’

BULGARIA

The Sofia Globe: Twelve communist-era State Security agents among Bulgaria’s MPs. ‘Twelve of the 240 members of Bulgaria’s 42nd National Assembly, elected on May 12, worked for the country’s communist-era secret service State Security.

Each of the four parties has former State Security agents.

Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB has three out of its total 97 MPs, Sergei Stanishev’s Bulgarian Socialist Party four out of 84 MPs, Lyutvi Mestan’s Movement for Rights and Freedoms four – including Mestan – out of 36 MPs and Volen Siderov’s Ataka, one out of 23. Mathematically, the MRF has the highest proportion of former State Security people.

The total in the new Parliament is one fewer than in the 41st National Assembly, where GERB had three, the socialists none, the MRF seven and Ataka, one, according to the desebg website.’

GREECE

Enet English: Muslims threatened to be ‘slaughtered like chickens’. ‘The Muslim Association of Greece says they received a threatening note giving all Muslims one month to leave the country or be ‘slaughtered like chickens’. The letter, as it appeared on the association’s webpage, has the Golden Dawn emblem printed on it, but the party has firmly denied having anything to do with it’

Tsipras lashes out against New Democracy. ‘Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras lashed out against New Democracy during a meeting of the party’s Central Political Committee on Saturday, accusing them of not taking a stand against the neo-nazi Golden Dawn during a controversial incident in parliament on Friday.

Tsipras accused the ruling party of keeping equal distance from the main opposition, the parliamentary speakers and the “Hitler nostalgics”, during a clash between Syriza and Golden Dawn MPs, when “Heil Hitler” was heard three times in the chamber.

The main opposition leader also said it was the government’s and subsequently the prime minister’s fault that the “antiracism bill disappeared”.’

Video – Greek Reporter: Golden Dawn Wreath Laying Causes Clash. ‘Skirmishes erupted between members of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party and leftist supporters in the western Greek town of Agrinio when a lawmaker from the extremists, Kostas Barbarousis stepped forward to lay a wreath at a Pontian Genocide memorial during a commemoration ceremony.

A number of people had gathered in Ayios Konstantinos to the 94th anniversary of the genocide, including the city mayor and representatives of two Pontian unions, who put a wreath at the memorial. They had asked politicians not to do so.’

HUNGARY

The Boston Globe: European fascism: A movement grows in Hungary. ‘In France, Switzerland, and Austria, right-wing parties known for racist and nationalist platforms have gained ground. Germany’s neo-Nazis are seeing a renaissance as well. In Greece, a soccer player was banned for a Nazi salute. But nowhere in Europe has a nascent fascist movement made greater inroads than in Hungary.

Flying under the radar, the Jobbik party has staked a hold on the hearts, minds, and Facebook pages of Hungarian youth. Sadly, it’s not just the possibility of secession from the European Union that’s attracting followers: Jobbik scapegoats Jews and ethnic Roma. The party won 17 percent of the Hungarian Parliament in 2010 and has only gained ground since.

The European Union’s Parliament has roundly criticized Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for not speaking out against extremist riots, rallies, and speeches, while reports of violence against ethnic minorities increase. Despite Orban’s insistence at the recent 2013 World Jewish Congress that his government is not anti-Semitic, and that he will not tolerate hate, his actions suggest otherwise. He has failed to establish a strict line between his center-right Fidesz party and the far-right Jobbik, and he has been reluctant to take on its policies.’

Politics.hu: Demands for apology from European Parliament President Schulz over charges of anti-Semitism in Hungary. ‘The Hungarian foreign ministry as well as Fidesz members of the European Parliament (EP) on Friday demanded an apology from Martin Schulz, the EP president, for saying in an interview to a Belgian newspaper that “Hungary wants to count the Jews”.

The Fidesz EP group categorically rejects “the assertion which is gravely hurtful to the dignity of the whole Hungarian nation and every Hungarian citizen.”

They said in a statement that Schulz’s statement was both “unprecedented and unacceptable”. The president of the European Parliament “accuses the whole country and every one of its citizens of being anti-Semitic,” they said, adding a demand not only for an apology but a correction, too.’

Translated from German – Der Spiegel: Hungary’s government: Orbán Merkel casts Nazi methods against.The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán like it rhetorically like rugged and powerful. The binding values ​​of all nationalist Hungarians are “Blood and homeland,” he announced in a speech last year. Recently he calls Hungary to the Christian bulwark against a “secular, internationalist, family-hostile Europe”. Last Friday, now he compared the policies of Chancellor Angela Merkel against Hungary with the arranged by Hitler occupation of land (“Operation Margarethe”) by German troops in March 1944.’

RUSSIA

The Moscow Times: Gay Rights Rally Shot Down for 3rd Time This Month. ‘Moscow authorities have rejected a third request from gay rights activists to hold a rally later this month, just as an opinion poll was released showing that society has become more intolerant toward gays.

Officials on Friday said the demonstration was not possible because May 25, the day when it was planned to be held in Gorky Park, coincided with graduation day celebrations.  Rally organizers said this was just an excuse to turn down the rally, however.

“Every year, they find a reason to reject it,” said Nikolai Alexeyev, an organizer of gay rights parades. “This year it’s graduation day, last year it was border guard’s day, the year before it was Cyril and Methodius day — they can find a reason for any day of the year.”

Gay rights activists filed a complaint with three of the city’s courts to appeal the ban on the rally, citing a European Court of Human Rights ruling issued in 2010 that bans on gay parades from 2006 to 2008 were illegal. The ruling came in response to a complaint that Alexeyev filed concerning demonstrations during this period.’

RAPSI: Domodedovo terrorist attack victim challenges prosecution. ‘The lawyers for a Domodedovo terrorist attack victim insist that a criminal case be opened against officials for failure to find those guilty of violating transportation security regulations, attorney Igor Trunov told RAPSI.

On Friday Trunov, who represents the interests of terrorist attack victim Yelena Krivolutskaya, filed a suit with the Basmanny Court of Moscow.

On January 24, 2011, a suicide bomber detonated a bomb in the Domodedovo Airport’s international arrivals hall, killing 37 people and injuring 172.

Trunov earlier wrote the Investigative Committee a letter saying that not a single suspect had been found in the case over the past two years. He demands that a criminal case be opened against the officials of the agency that is investigating the attack.’

Reuters: EU says worried by Russia’s human rights record. ‘The European Union criticized Russia’s human rights record on Sunday, saying it was increasingly concerned at a wave of restrictive legislation and prosecutions against activists.

The 27-nation bloc cited the cases of protesters arrested at a demonstration on the eve of President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration last year who are still awaiting trial, and a new law requiring charities with funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents”.’

Ria Novosti: Russia May Change Adoption Law Over French Gay Marriage. ‘ Russia’s children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said on Saturday Russia may change its adoption agreement with France in response to the country’s new gay marriage law.’

RUVR: Russia Developing Terrorist-Killer Robots.

Russian experts are developing robots designed to minimize casualties in terrorist attacks and neutralize terrorists, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Friday.

Robots could also help evacuate injured servicemen and civilians from the scene of a terrorist attack, said Rogozin, who oversees the defense industry.

Other antiterror equipment Russia is developing includes systems that can see terrorists through obstacles and effectively engage them in a standoff mode at a long distance without injuring their hostages, he said.

Rogozin did not say when the equipment might be deployed by Russia’s security and intelligence services. Human Rights Watch has criticized fully autonomous weapons, known as “killer robots,” which would be able to select and engage targets without human intervention and called for the preemptive prohibition on such weapons.’

European MPs warn against meddling in Russia’s interethnic relations. ‘Speaking at an international human rights conference in the Russian Caucasus city of Cherkessk on Friday, Dutch MEP Daniel van der Stoep cautioned against outside interference in the domestic affairs of any country.’

Vestnik Kavkaza: Militant base found in Kabardino-Balkaria.

Dagestani police officer accused of collaboration with militants. ‘A riot police officer and his brother are accused of collaboration with militants in Dagestan. An illegal arsenal was found when the police searched the 37-year old leutenant’s house’

Militant arsenal destroyed in Dagestan. ‘An arsenal used by militants has been destroyed in the Kizlyar District of Dagestan, the republic’s internal ministry says. The arsenal was found in a forest. 10 grenades and a large quantity of shells were found in the arsenal.’

TURKEY

CNN: Turkish protesters clash with police in bomb-hit border town. ‘Protesters in a Turkish border town hit by a twin car-bombing a week ago clashed with police Saturday, as they voiced anger over the government’s response to the attack.

About 50 people were killed and about 100 injured when the blasts went off in the southern town of Reyhanli, in across the border from Syria’s Idlib province, on May 11. One was at the community’s city hall and the other in front of a post office.

The protest Saturday began relatively peacefully but descended into chaos as running street clashes broke out with police.

Protesters threw rocks and bottles at the police, who responded by firing tear gas canisters and high-pressure paintballs. Officers also brought out a water cannon.

Women and children ran from the scene as thick clouds of tear gas spread through the streets at the heart of the confrontation.’

Translated from German – Süddeutsche: Violence in Turkish footballIt simmers in the Turkish Football: The sport has been the top game in Istanbul in exceptional condition. After the racial slurs and the Fanrandalen fatal claim numerous activists of the Uefa sanctions. But President Platini dreams especially the European Championship final in 2020 in Istanbul.’

UPI: More suspects detained in Turkey car bombing. ‘Turkish officials said four more suspects have been detained after two car bombs exploded last week near the Syrian border killing 51 people.

In total, 17 people have either been jailed or interviewed by Turkish police after the attack, Today’s Zaman said. Turkish officials suspect the attack was carried out by elements loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in an attempt to escalate Syria’s two-year civil war into a larger regional conflict.’

UKRAINE

The Guardian: Ukraine gay pride marchers ready to defy violence. ‘Efforts are going ahead in Ukraine ‘s capital Kiev to stage a gay pride march next week in the face of data showing a sharp rise in the number of reported homophobic attacks in the city.

Organisers were forced to cancel the celebration load-year, hours before it was due to start, after police said They Could not guarantee the safety of Participants in the face of threats from far-right and religious groups.

A report published this weekend by Amnesty International revealed what it called “endemic discrimination” by both the Ukrainian Authorities and members of the public towards the countryside lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community, and is calling on the government to drop Proposals to introduce two pieces of legislation Further Which would entrench homophobia by making it illegal to promote “propaganda” about homosexuality in the arts.’

JTA: Svoboda party disavows threatening letter to Ukrainian Jew. ‘The Ukrainian ultra-nationalist Svoboda party distanced itself from a recent anti-Semitic letter carrying its logo.

The Ukrainian news site Obozrevatel reported that the letter sent this month to a prominent Jewish movie director, David Cherkassky, read: “Dear Shmuel, you live and grow fat in Ukraine. We are very happy for you as long as everything is quiet, but your peace and quiet will not last long. So gather your belongings before it is too late.”

A Svoboda spokesperson said the party had nothing to do with the letter.

This is “another attempt to do divert attention away from the authorities’ failed social and economic policies by implanting artificial incitement of ethnic hatred in Ukraine,” the spokesperson said, according to Obozrevatel.’

Kyiv Post: Batkivschyna, UDAR, Svoboda to coordinate their actions at presidential election. ‘The leaders of Ukraine’s opposition factions, Arseniy Yatseniuk (Batkivschyna faction), Vitali Klitschko (UDAR), and Oleh Tiahnybok (Svoboda) signed a declaration on the coordination of their actions at the presidential election during a rally in Kyiv on Saturday.’

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