Plus, Montenegro suffers under prolonged drought and an exclusive massacre in Romania.by Ky Krauthamer, Joshua Boissevain, and Kelly Klein 25 January 2012
1. More arrests over Kazakh oil strike
An opponent of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev and a newspaper editor were detained 23 January and could face long prison terms if convicted on charges connected to the unrest in the western town of Zhanaozen.
In August, Natalia Sokolova, a lawyer advising the striking workers, received a six-year prison sentence for inciting social discord.
Alga has repeatedly been denied official registration. On 10 January, Kozlov said the recent parliamentary elections could not be considered legitimate in light of the unrest and continuing state of emergency in Zhanaozen.
2. Central Europeans hedging bets on EU fiscal pact
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk on 24 January repeated his earlier suggestion that Poland might refuse to sign a new EU fiscal treaty unless the country is treated as an equal by euro zone members.
Tusk told European Council President Herman Van Rompuy that if Poland isn't granted participant status in euro zone summits, “it will be hard for us to sign” the proposed treaty to tighten the bloc’s fiscal rules, the Warsaw Voice reports.
Poland is the largest economy among the EU’s new members but has not set a date for adoption of the euro.
In the neighboring Czech Republic, Prime Minister Petr Necas has proposed a referendum on the fiscal treaty, possibly in a joint referendum on adoption of the euro. He did not say when the referendum might be held. Many members of Necas’ Civic Democratic Party are skeptical about the euro and closer political integration in the EU.
3. Saakashvili critic’s wife regains citizenship, may run for parliament
The administration of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said 24 January it would not appeal a court ruling that allows the wife of billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, Ekaterine Khvedelidze, to reclaim her Georgian citizenship.
The move could clear the way for Khvedelidze to form a political party and run for parliament later this year.
Businessman and philanthropist Ivanishvili emerged suddenly in October as a vocal critic of what he called Saakashvili’s corruption and misguided policies toward Russia.
4. Montenegrins march against rising power prices
A crowd estimated at from 5,000 to 10,000 demonstrated against rising electricity prices in the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica, on 21 January in a protest organized by labor unions and student groups, The Southeast European Times reports.
The state electricity regulator increased prices by 6.7 percent this month, less than half the 15 percent rise requested by the Elektroprivredra electricity provider.
Pero Vuckovic, deputy director of the state electricity regulator, told SETimes that electricity prices declined in the previous two years, and the latest rise would increase electricity bills by no more than 2 euros a month.
Meanwhile, the country’s capacity to exploit its only abundant source of electricity, hydropower, has plummeted as a severe drought continues across Southeastern Europe. Montenegrin hydro plants were working at only 5 percent capacity in early December, utility spokesman Rajko Sebek said, according to Bloomberg.
Montenegro is one of Europe’s poorest countries, with an average monthly salary of 475 euros and high unemployment. The country benefited from rising foreign investment in the 2000s as the tourism industry boomed, but foreign investment dropped by a third from 2010 to 2011, AFP reports.
5. Activists condemn Romanian boar hunt
Where can a multimillionaire go to get a little peace and quiet while hunting boars with his pals? Apparently, not Romania.
On 20 January, a group of international protesters met would-be VIP hunters arriving for an annual weekend boar-hunting party organized by Romanian mogul and tennis promoter Ion Tiriac in western Romania, according to Romania Libera. During the two-day hunt, more than 250 boars were killed, according to Adevarul.
Activists from the animal rights group Vier Pfoten, which organized the protest, said the boars, which are bred for the event, are chased in front of the hunters and have little chance to escape. Carmen Arsenie, vice president of Romania’s National Federation for Animal Protection, called the event a “hunting orgy” in a recent statement and described it as a medieval, cruel, and illegal practice.
Last year’s hunt also elicited controversy, though this was the first time protesters picketed at the Balc hunting preserve. According to Vier Pfoten, 1,400 animals have been killed since the hunts started in 2005.
In 2011, former tennis pro Tiriac, 72, was ranked the fifth wealthiest person in Romania by Forbes with a fortune totaling 750 million euros. Among the guests at this year’s hunt were Porsche chairman Wolfgang Porsche, Georges Marsan, the mayor of Monte Carlo, and former DaimlerChrysler chairman Klaus Mangold, according to one report.