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Plus, pressure mounts on Ukraine ahead of Euro 2012 tournament and the case of the vanished Czech bridge.by Ky Krauthamer, Ryan Isakow, and Stanislav Maselnik 1 May 2012
1. European leaders threaten Euro 2012 boycott
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said 30 April he would not go to Ukraine during the tournament unless there is significant improvement in the human rights situation, according to AP. Earlier, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said she would skip the 8 June opening ceremony.
Spiegel Online speculates that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will follow suit unless Tymoshenko is released soon, and Czech President Vaclav Klaus on 30 April pulled out of an upcoming summit of Central European leaders in Ukraine over Tymoshenko’s treatment.
Tymoshenko’s husband, Oleksandr, and former Ukrainian government minister Bohdan Danylyshyn have been granted political asylum in the Czech Republic.
Meanwhile, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski expressed concern the Dnipropetrovsk bomb blasts might mar the tournament.
2. Slovak government mulls wealth taxes
Slovakia’s new center-left government is drafting a plan that would replace the current 19 percent flat tax with a progressive tax system, with the goal of getting the budget deficit below 3 percent of GDP by 2013. The government has ruled out increasing consumption taxes, opting instead to add a second income tax bracket of 25 percent on incomes above 33,000 euros ($43,800) annually. The average gross salary in 2009 was about 10,000 euros, according to the Slovak statistics agency. The government is also looking into a financial transaction tax and a 22 percent tax on “lucrative companies” including banks and telecoms, AFP reports.
3. Breakthrough ruling finds discrimination in Bosnian schools
A court has overturned the “two schools under one roof” system in one Bosnian city.
A Mostar court ruling on 27 April upheld a lawsuit filed by the Vasa Prava legal-aid group, finding that the system used in a number of Bosnian schools, where children from the country’s main ethnic groups are educated separately in the same building, amounts to discrimination.
“Two schools under one roof” is most common in the Bosnian-Croat Federation, where Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslim) and Croats are the dominant groups. During the Bosnian War in the 1990s, the two communities fought a fierce battle for Mostar that left the city’s famous stone bridge in ruins, and the city remains sharply divided along ethnic lines.
The court ordered Mostar schools to end the separate-but-equal policy by the beginning of the next school year in September, a Vasa Prava spokesman said, according to the Swiss SDA news agency and AFP.
4. Medvedev fires two more provincial governors
In one of his final acts in office, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev dismissed the heads of Yaroslavl and Perm regions late last week. They joined nearly a dozen regional chiefs who have been relieved of their duties since December.
Medvedev said he was displeased by Yaroslavl region Governor Sergei Vakhrukov’s handling of the recent Yaroslavl mayoral election, The Moscow Times reports. Vakhrukov’s hand-picked candidate ended up losing to an opposition-backed candidate. Although former deputy mayor of Yaroslavl Sergei Yastrebov won the ruling United Russia party’s mayoral primary, Vakhrukov ignored the result and personally decided on a different candidate. Medvedev has now appointed Yastrebov to be acting governor.
Medvedev also accepted the resignation of Perm Governor Oleg Chirkonov, who will be temporarily replaced by Regional Development Minister Viktor Basargin, according to Gazeta.ru.
In a televised interview last week cited by The Moscow Times, Medvedev said he had replaced more than half the country’s governors during his tenure and suggested corruption had motivated several of the sackings.
5. Baffling reports of daring Czech bridge caper
A gang of thieves made off with a 10-ton railway bridge and 200 meters of track last week in the western Czech Republic, Mlada fronta Dnes reports.
The thieves pretended to be bona fide workers and had a fake contract authorizing them to remove the disused track and bridge to make way for a cycle path, Railway Infrastructure Administration spokesman Pavel Halla said. The fake document apparently satisfied police who dropped by to question the thieves.
The bridge theft made little impact in the Czech media, where stories of metal theft are common, but Mlada fronta’s website ran a follow up story 30 April, highlighting that Britain’s Daily Telegraph had picked up the story. Mlada fronta chided the Telegraph for placing the scene of the crime at the opposite end of the country, but there appears to be some geopolitical confusion in the newsroom of the largest Czech daily as well. The map accompanying the original story labeled the largest city in the area “Carlsbad,” the old German name for Karlovy Vary.
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