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Plus, Russia pushes natural gas fuel for cars and feminist actors face off against the patriarchal Kyrgyz establishment.by Ky Krauthamer, Joshua Boissevain, Ioana Caloianu, and Vladimir Matan 12 April 2013
Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic got less than he wanted out of this week’s trip to Russia – in both financial and diplomatic support.
Serbian officials had hoped to clinch a $1 billion loan deal in Moscow but had to be satisfied with half that amount, Reuters reports.
In 2012 Russia agreed to loan Serbia $800 million to overhaul its rail network.
Dacic’s 10 April visit to Moscow came days after Serbian and Kosovan negotiators failed to find common ground on autonomy for Serbs in northern Kosovo at the latest round of EU-brokered talks in Brussels.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gave only guarded support to Belgrade’s position. Serbia insists on some measure of autonomy for Kosovo Serbs and continues to finance local institutions in the Serb-dominated northern pocket. Medvedev said Russia understood the importance of the Kosovo issue for Serbia and “will always support the position formulated by Serbian officials," Balkan Insight reports.
However, he also said Moscow has the impression that the Serbs "expect more from Russia than from Serbia itself,” Reuters writes.
"The process needs to be fostered by Serbia, not us," Medvedev told Dacic.
Filat must now build a cabinet and get the necessary majority of parliament’s 101 votes for approval. If he fails three times in the course of 45 days, the country will face snap elections, Radio Free Europe reports.
It won’t be an easy task to secure the votes, however. In addition to the parliament’s largest bloc, the opposition Communist Party, Mihai Ghimpu, a former coalition partner and leader of the Liberals, said his party would not vote for Filat. That leaves only Filat’s own party, the Liberal Democrats; the Democrats, led by Marian Lupu; and a handful of independents to make up the needed 51 votes.
So far Lupu has said he is still waiting to be convinced on which way to vote, but political analysts see the move as political posturing, as the Democrats would have much to lose – including control of five ministries – if the coalition fell apart completely, according to Adevarul.
Filat’s success may hinge on who he appoints as attorney general, the position that initially sparked the current political crisis in January.
The Moldovan government collapsed in early March after a Communist-led no confidence vote booted the former governing coalition, the Alliance for European Integration. Previously, political infighting and mutual accusations of corruption had all but immobilized the government in the wake of a fatal New Year’s hunting trip involving the country’s justice establishment.
Should Moldova go to the polls, the Communists are expected to gain power, Reuters reports.
A dispute that has pitted former victims of the Czechoslovak communist regime against one another has culminated in the ouster of the head of the Czech Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes. Daniel Herman, a former Catholic priest and communist-era dissident, was dismissed 10 April by his supervisory board for poor management and moving too slowly to digitize the institute’s enormous archives, Radio Prague reports.
Supporters of Herman, who was appointed in 2010 by the center-right government headed by the Civic Democratic Party, charge that he became the victim of a move to take over the institute by the main opposition Social Democrats and the still-powerful Communist Party. Several members of the institute’s scientific council resigned 10 April in protest at Herman’s sacking, including historian Michael Kraus and Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, who served as archbishop of Prague when Herman was the secretary of the Czech Roman Catholic bishops’ council.
Monika MacDonagh-Pajerova, a student leader during the 1989 demonstrations that led to the communist government’s collapse, told Radio Prague the left’s attacks on Herman over the last six months resembled a “political show trial.”
But supervisory board chairwoman Petruska Sustrova, a journalist and former dissident close to the Social Democrats, told Radio Prague the accusations of pressure from the left to get rid of Herman were groundless.
The interim head of the institute, Pavla Foglova, told Czech public television 11 April that Sustrova sounded her out about taking the job two months ago. Foglova said she planned personnel changes with the aim to “depoliticize and de-ideologize” the institute.
Political controversies have plagued the institute almost since its founding by an act of parliament in 2007. Its main tasks are to open the archives of the communist security apparatus and conduct research into the Nazi and communist regimes.
Kyrgyz cultural officials are reacting angrily to today’s planned performance of the play Vagina Monologues in Bishkek, saying the play promotes “unnatural, perverted sex under the slogan of feminism.” In a letter sent to media outlets in the city 1 April, EurasiaNet.org writes, the Culture Ministry suggested the performance be banned, although the widely performed play has been staged twice in Bishkek in the last four years.
With its open description of women's relationships with their bodies and sexual feelings, the play “contradicts our mentality,” EurasiaNet.org quotes Culture Ministry official Ermek Jolochuev as saying. “You know that nationalities living on the territory of Kyrgyzstan, and Eastern people in general, are not used to talking about such topics openly or to speaking publicly the names of women's body parts,” he said.
Jolochuev added that the ministry cannot legally ban the Russian-language performance, scheduled for the evening of 12 April in a benefit show for a local women’s shelter.
Women’s advocates say Kyrgyzstan remains a place where women's rights and issues such as domestic violence, abuse, and bride kidnapping remain taboo in spite of attempts to overcome the social stigma that surrounds them. Another recent sign of a conservative turn on women’s rights is a proposal by the Kyrgyz parliament to ban women under 23 from traveling abroad without their parents’ consent to protect them from the risk of abuse.
Concerned about the slowdown of the economy, the Russian government is committed to supporting the domestic auto industry, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told industry representatives 11 April, and will seek to catch up with other European countries on developing alternative fuels.
Speaking at a GAZ auto plant, Medvedev recalled that the government initiated a program in January to make the industry more competitive, partly by investing in high-tech cars and components.
He also said the government would issue a directive on the use of compressed and liquefied natural gas fuels. As The New York Times points out, the state-controlled gas monopoly Gazprom is pushing hard for the increased use of these fuels. Russia is one of the world’s largest producers of natural gas and regulations on its use as automotive fuel are less restrictive there than in many other countries, the paper writes.
So far, the use of natural gas fuel is largely restricted to rural areas in parts of the country where gas is produced. Both the government and Gazprom would like to see it adopted more widely.
As Medvedev said at the auto-industry meeting, “Our country is extremely large, and transport costs will always be higher here than in Europe. The transition to natural gas can change this. And given our large gas reserves, we can and should use this natural competitive advantage of ours. Hopefully, this will also boost the overall competitiveness of our economy. ”