Plus, Ukraine slaps tariffs on a range of imports and an unpublished novel by a late, beloved Kyrgyz-Russian author surfaces.by Ky Krauthamer, Joshua Boissevain, Ioana Caloianu, and Nino Tsintsadze 27 September 2012
Shops and restaurants in the Czech Republic are expected to resume sales of hard liquor 27 September as the government partially lifts a ban imposed two weeks ago after 26 people died from drinking liquor adulterated with poisonous methanol.
The cabinet voted 26 September to allow sales of liquor containing more than 20 percent alcohol manufactured before 1 January, the Czech Press Agency reports. Sales of liquor manufactured in 2012 will be allowed once merchants produce a so-called “birth certificate” documenting its origin.
Open bottles of liquor must be destroyed unless they have been tested for methanol.
“We selected a line that in our opinion is safe,” Health Minister Leos Heger said, the Mlada fronta Dnes newspaper reports.
Two men suspected of being the main distributors of the adulterated alcohol were arrested earlier this week, Radio Prague reports. They are charged with endangering public safety and face up to 20 years in prison. Police have seized large quantities of methanol but believe about 15,000 liters of tainted liquor may be unaccounted for.
Following a large outcry, Ukraine’s ruling party has temporarily withdrawn a bill from parliamentary consideration that would have recriminalized defamation, according to Interfax. The bill, which passed its first reading 18 September, stipulated that distributing "deliberately untrustworthy information" could result in large fines or up to five years in prison.
The bill drew strong criticism domestically and internationally. Opponents, including journalists and opposition lawmakers, said it was part of an effort by the government and the ruling Party of Regions to crack down on the media ahead of October’s parliamentary elections. Locally, press freedom has become a campaign issue for many opposition politicians, and abroad Western governments and press advocates have decried recent curbs on the country’s media, according to Reuters.
President Viktor Yanukovych also tried to distance himself from the measure, calling it a “mistake” and saying that the 244 deputies who supported it on first reading “must have not understood the documents when they voted for them,” Interfax reports.
Zhuravsky, however, said he intends to reintroduce the bill following the elections.
In an attempt to attract more tourists, Romanian authorities plan to boost invest in the development of medical services, Balkan Insight writes. About 3 percent of last year’s visitors, or 70,000 people, came to the country for medical and spa treatment, double the number of health tourists in 2009, injecting about 250 million euros ($322 million) into the economy.
Bucharest hosted an international conference on health tourism 24-25 September. Speaking at the event, Tourism Minister Eduard Hellvig said spa tourism was an important niche for Romania and that investments into spas would be a priority for 2013.
The Romania Libera newspaper writes that the medical services offered by large university hospitals and private clinics in Transylvania and the Banat are already in high demand among foreigners. Targu-Mures is a destination of choice for treatment of cardiovascular diseases, while clinics in Cluj offer high-quality eye care and dental treatment at prices several times lower than in Western Europe.
At the same time, state-run medical facilities are confronting as increasing shortage of medical personnel as a result of mass emigration by young doctors and nurses. The Ziare.com news website writes that 1,605 doctors left Romania in 2012, according to Vasile Astarastoae, the president of the Romanian College of Physicians. He added that low pay is the main reason for emigration, as young doctors earn about 700 lei ($200) per month, a sum barely above the minimum wage.
Ukraine's unexpected request to sharply raise tariffs on hundreds of imported goods is causing concern among its European and American trading partners, the Guardian writes.
According to a document reportedly circulated among World Trade Organization members last week, Ukraine wants to raise import tariffs on more than 350 products, Reuters reports. Ukraine became a member of the WTO in 2008.
"We are talking about a list of goods valued at $4.6 billion. This would set a precedent and lead to extensive cancellation of obligations by Ukraine or other members of the organization, so the consequences of this step, obviously, could be even worse," WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell told Deutsche Welle.
"We don't know what is behind Ukraine's move. … Maybe the financial crisis. Maybe political reasons. Maybe industrial," one diplomat told Reuters. Ukraine’s trade deficit grew by more than 50 percent last year to about $14 billion.
EU trade spokesman John Clancy told EurActiv the tariffs could have significant repercussions on the bloc’s exports to Ukraine, worth 2 billion euros annually, especially on car exports, which make up one-third of the total volume.
WTO members have 90 days to study Ukraine’s request and state their views.
For his family, the discovery may be offset by the loss of Aitmatov’s dacha in the Peredelkino writers colony outside Moscow, RFE reported 22 September.
Some members of the family want to convert Aitmatov’s dacha into a museum but fear the fund that owns the house may have it torn down to make way for new luxury housing in the desirable area, Aitmatov’s daughter-in-law, Gyuzel Aitmatova, said.
Dozens of prominent writers made their homes in the dacha colony, from Boris Pasternak and Ilya Ehrenburg to the satirist Ilya Ilf and the philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin. Poets Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Andrei Voznesensky are among more recent residents.
Aitmatov’s heirs have appealed to the Public Chamber, a state legislative watchdog, for help in staving off an attempt by the International Literary Fund to evict them from the house. The fund alleges the family has continued to live illegally in the house since Aitmatov’s death, RFE reports.