Plus, Latvian officials set date for euro adoption and a Slovak firm denies shoddy testing of medical products.by Ky Krauthamer, Joshua Boissevain, Andrew McIntyre, and Nino Tsintsadze 24 October 2012
German Chancellor Angela Merkel unveiled a memorial 24 October to the hundreds of thousands of Roma who were killed during the Nazi regime, the BBC reports. Located in Berlin’s Tiergarten park, near the German parliament building and other monuments to Holocaust victims, the Roma memorial was originally scheduled to open years ago but construction was delayed until 2008.
Though the exact number is unknown, as many as 500,000 Roma and Sinti were killed in Nazi-occupied Europe. Many victims were also sterilized and forced into concentration camps. Germany officially recognized the Roma Holocaust as a genocide in 1982.
The memorial is a round pool with a triangular stone at the center, representing the triangle symbol used at concentration camps to denote Roma ethnicity. This is the third commemoration in Berlin to specific groups targeted during the Holocaust. The city opened a memorial to Jewish victims in 2005 and another to homosexual victims in 2008, Bloomberg reports. German President Joachim Gauck and about 100 Romani Holocaust survivors also attended the ceremony.
The unveiling comes days after German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich came under fire for remarks referring to Romani asylum-seekers from the Balkans as “unwanted guests” who are “breaching Germany’s asylum policies,” according to Deutsche Welle.
Russians are commemorating the victims of the 2002 Dubrovka theater siege, but some survivors continue to question the official version of events.
On 23 October 2002, a group of about 40 armed men invaded the Moscow theater and held the audience of more than 900 hostage for more than two days, demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya. After unsuccessful negotiations, Russian special forces released gas into the theater to disable everyone inside, then stormed the building, killing all the attackers. Troops carried unconscious audience members into waiting ambulances, but 130 people died, most as a result of poisoning by the gas. Russian authorities say the terrorists killed five audience members.
Some survivors continue to cast doubt on the official account, Agence France Press reports. Last year the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of 64 ex-hostages and relatives, ordering Russia to pay 1.25 million euros in compensation, while also ruling that officials did not violate the hostages’ rights by using the still-unidentified gas.
Another legal case stemming from the attack may be settled this week. Attorney Igor Trutnov is appealing the refusal of the country’s chief investigative agency to re-open a case against Russian authorities for their actions during the operation to free the hostages. The Investigative Committee argues that none of the actions taken during the operation violated the law. Last week a Moscow court postponed hearings in the case until 25 October.
Latvia – the European Union country whose economy declined most steeply during the economic crisis – has emerged from an EU bailout and three years of harsh austerity measures with the bloc’s fastest-growing economy and is poised to join the eurozone in 2014, EUObserver reports.
Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis cited Latvia’s recovery as proof that spending cuts work. He also pointed to neighboring Estonia, which has seen greater interest from foreign investors, lower transaction taxes on businesses, and greater price transparency since joining the common currency in 2011.
Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves voiced his support for Latvia and Lithuania joining the eurozone, Baltic Business News reports, citing Estonian Public Broadcasting. “With all three Baltic countries in the eurozone, our common influence in the so-called core of Europe would intensify,” Ilves said.
But EUObserver writes that not all is rosy in the Latvian economy. Gross domestic product is still below pre-crisis levels, and unemployment is above 15 percent, although that is well below the 20 percent reached at the height of the crisis.
Since then, Latvia – and the other two Baltic states – have rallied and emerged stronger as a result of internal austerity and trade with better-off neighbors, according to the Guardian.
British allegations about shoddy medical-testing practices at a Slovak company are untrue, the firm’s board chairman tells the Slovak daily Sme today.
Britain’s Telegraph newspaper and the British Medical Journal approached the company, EVPU, as part of an investigation into reports that many European testing companies are willing to license medical products without following proper procedures. EVPU’s main business is the testing of electrical products, but it is also accredited to check medical devices such as hip and knee implants, the article reports.
Posing as representatives of a Chinese company, reporters asked about certifying a new hip implant, submitting documentation for a product that has already been withdrawn from the market because of design flaws. EVPU staff said the Chinese company could submit a “literature review.” An EVPU executive reportedly said a clinical evaluation could be prepared using existing articles on similar products in medical journals. The reporters were told they would not even have to submit an actual sample of the implant.
“The certification process does not run as it is described by the English journalist and as it has been ‘successfully’ interpreted by our [Slovak] media,” EVPU board chairman Igor Gerek told Sme.
Reporters secretly filmed representatives of EVPU and of a Czech testing firm, ITC. An ITC staff member tells them, “We are on the side of [the] manufacturer and their products, not on the side of patients.”
Gerek said the video had been edited in a misleading way. He also said EVPU halted its certification procedure after it stopped receiving communications from the fictitious Chinese company.
The Armenian government is growing increasingly concerned about the loss of working-age citizens to Russia, as EurasiaNet reports.
Russia’s Compatriots program, launched in 2006 to help develop underpopulated Russian regions, targets migrants from former Soviet republics with promises of jobs, housing, and the right to obtain Russian citizenship. Accurate figures for the number of Armenians in the program are not available, but it may be only a few thousand, EurasiaNet writes. However, Armenian officials have long been concerned at the steady drain of labor migrants. Official data show that 97,000 people left Armenia in the first nine months of this year.
Shavarsh Kocharyan, Armenia’s deputy foreign minister, said earlier this month that Yerevan was “categorically against” the continuation of the Compatriots scheme. Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan made a similar comment in parliament, ArmeniaNow.com reported. The news site put the number of Armenians in the program at about 5,000.
An indication that many more would leave the country if they could – but not to Russia – came this month with the release of figures on the United States’ Diversity Visa, or “green card” program. No fewer than 100,000 Armenian citizens entered the lottery for a green card in 2011, far more than in neighboring Azerbaijan or Georgia. About 1 percent of applicants were randomly selected to apply for the coveted visas, said George Lynn, the U.S. consul in Armenia.