Plus, Slovenia's “erased” have a last chance for reparations and a Georgian village sees a tense standoff between Orthodox and Muslim residents.by Ioana Caloianu, Ky Krauthamer, Vladimir Matan, and Molly Jane Zuckerman 10 July 2013
A Dagestani journalist known for coverage of sensitive political topics was killed by an unknown gunman 9 July, according to Al Jazeera. Police said Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev, deputy editor of Novoye Delo, was shot dead on the outskirts of the republic's capital Makhachkala. Grigory Shvedov, editor of the Caucasian Knot website where Akhmednabiyev previously worked, labeled it “clearly a targeted killing,” adding that Akhmednabiyev had survived an attempt on his life at the same spot.
The media climate remains dangerous in Dagestan and other North Caucasus republics. Al Jazeera cites Caucasian Knot’s estimate of 17 suspicious deaths of journalists in Dagestan since 1993. In December a Russian television journalist was murdered in Kabardino-Balkaria in what some saw as retaliation by extremists.
Akhmednabiyev’s name had been on a hit list of journalists, lawyers, and activists distributed in Makhachkala in 2009. The anonymous author implied those on the list were aiding Muslim insurgents, according to Al Jazeera.
Khadzhimurad Kamalov, another investigative journalist also on the list, was murdered in December 2011.
According to Radio Free Europe, the Russian Public Chamber, a monitoring agency, urged the authorities to investigate the Akhmednabiyev murder and warned, “journalists in Russia are exposed to violence and unprotected.”
The International Monetary Fund is being “too tough” and unappreciative of Serbia’s budget-cutting efforts in talks to renew a loan agreement, Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic said 8 July, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
The revised budget approved by the cabinet of Prime Minister Ivica Dacic last week projects a budget deficit this year of 4.7 percent of GDP, higher than the 3.6 percent predicted earlier.
The government plans to shutter or sell nearly 180 companies that it owns, which employ about 54,000 people, according to Businessweek, which reports that those companies cost Serbia as much as 750 million euros ($964 million) annually.
IMF representative Bogdan Lissovolik said the budget revision was a “step in the right direction,” but not “sufficient to avoid a risk of fiscal deterioration,” Businessweek writes. He added that the Serbian government needs a “credible plan to lower the public debt,” which amounted to 62 percent of GDP in the first quarter, according to Businessweek.
Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said an agreement on a new loan would send a “clear political signal to investors,” Businessweek writes, less than a week after he commented that it would “not be a tragedy” should a bailout agreement fall through, according to Business New Europe.
Also last week, Dacic said the talks about cutting wages and pensions were “more about wanting to meet the IMF and World Bank’s expectations.”
Thousands of Slovenian residents who became stateless when the Yugoslav republic declared independence have until 24 July to request compensation from the Slovenian authorities, Balkan Insight’s Balkan Transitional Justice reports.
The dispute dates to 1992, when about 25,000 permanent residents of Slovenia, mainly from the other former Yugoslav republics, were reclassified as foreigners. This group, known as “the erased,” found themselves “aliens or stateless persons illegally residing in Slovenia,” the European Court of Human Rights wrote in a 2012 judgment.
“In general, they had difficulties in keeping their jobs and driving licenses and obtaining retirement pensions. Nor were they able to leave the country, because they could not re-enter without valid documents. Many families became divided, with some of their members in Slovenia and others [elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia],” the court wrote.
“In most cases their identity papers were taken away. Some of the ‘erased’ voluntarily left Slovenia. Some were served with removal orders and deported from Slovenia.”
The Strasbourg court awarded compensation of 20,000 euros to six applicants.
“It is clear that these people were erased because of their ethnic background,” rights activist Natasha Kandic said, according to Balkan Transitional Justice.
A further 648 lawsuits were filed with the Strasbourg court after the 2012 ruling. Other former “erased” have until 24 July to file a request with the Slovenian authorities and then file a case with the court, Kandic said.
Georgia's ombudsman has demanded greater protection of religious rights after Orthodox residents tried to stop Muslims from praying together in an eastern Georgian village, Georgia Today reports.
Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili said religious intolerance was taking on a “systematic” character.
The June incident in Samtatskaro, not far from the border with Azerbaijan, marks at least the third such conflict in the past year in widely spread villages where Muslims make up a significant minority. On 28 June about 200 Orthodox residents of Samtatskaro protested against Muslims holding collective prayers, Georgia Today writes.
Islamic residents began using a house purchased for them by the Muslim Administration as a prayer hall early this year, the religious news agency Forum 18 writes, after which Orthodox residents began complaining about the public worship, which prompted a concerned message from Nanuashvili on 7 June about the situation.
During the 28 June incident, Orthodox residents threatened to burn down the house of the imam, Suliko Khozrevanidze, and expel him and his family from the village, according to Forum 18.
Village head Guliko Nadirashvili rejected that account, defending the Muslims’ right to pray to Forum 18 on 2 July and claiming the imam “has no problems here.”
More than 80 percent of Georgians belong to the Orthodox faith and the church is extremely influential. In recent years ultra-conservative clerics and laypeople have become much more vocal. In May a mob led by clergy attacked gay-rights demonstrators in Tbilisi.
The European Union has opened a case against Russia through the World Trade Organization for discriminating against imports of foreign cars, the Financial Times writes.
Russia imposed a fee of at least 420 euros on imported cars for future recycling costs just nine days after its accession to the WTO in August. The recycling fee does not apply to domestically produced cars as long as the carmakers arrange to take back their own used vehicles for recycling, EurActiv reported in February.
The recycling fee has virtually negated reductions in import duties negotiated by the WTO prior to Russia’s joining the organization, according to EurActiv.
Russia has 60 days to either remove the fee or justify it. The WTO can then begin adjudication procedures that could result in trade sanctions.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said in December, “Since Russia has become a member of the WTO they are doing exactly the opposite of what they are supposed to do or what they have been promising to do,” the Financial Times reports.
The Russian government estimates the recycling fee has raised 1.3 billion euros in new revenues, EurActiv reports, while the Financial Times notes that EU officials have reported a 7 percent drop in European car sales in Russia.
Oddly, Russia and other WTO members are threatening retaliatory measures against Ukraine for its own tax on imported cars.
Ukraine's emergency tax on imported cars would be allowed under WTO rules only if there is legitimate concern that an influx in imports will damage domestic producers, Reuters reports.
In a filing with the WTO on 9 July, Russia said it would apply tariffs on Ukrainian chocolate, glass, and coal as soon as the Russia-headed Customs Union with Kazakhstan and Belarus adopts the measure.