Hungarian officials are working on a compromise solution with the European Union after the European Commission froze development funding, Reuters reports.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, Janos Lazar, said the EU had stopped financing 13 of the 15 projects administered by the Hungarian National Development Agency.
“Brussels has serious problems with the ongoing programs,” Lazar said. “[I]n 2013 we could lose 500-600 billion forints [$2.2 billion-$2.7 billion] if the government does not take serious action.”
Lazar said the government is ready to negotiate and even accept a penalty of 50 to 100 million forints to resume the stalled projects. One of the main bones of contention, according to Lazar, was Hungary's insistence that technical inspectors for road building projects should be members of the Hungarian chamber of engineers, over EU objections that this would violate competition rules. Hungary and other former communist EU members depend heavily on EU funds for road building and other infrastructure projects.
Reuters notes the strained ties between Budapest and Brussels over EU criticism of Orban's economic and social policies. In July, an EU report charged the country with turning away from European values through its recent legislative and constitutional changes. The Orban government's unorthodox economic measures have had some success in bringing down the budget deficit. In May the European Commission rewarded the country's fiscal progress by ending its financial monitoring.
Prosecutors said more than 300 foreign companies and individuals and 46 anonymous payers used the Yandex-Money electronic payment system to transfer money into Navalny’s account and those of his campaign representatives, ITAR-TASS reports.
Navalny denies the accusation. All campaign contributions are sent to a Sberbank account and are checked by the Moscow city election commission, he wrote on his blog, according to ITAR-TASS.
“When they tell us the payment is not legal – a patronymic or the date of birth are missing, or even citizenship – we return the payment. That’s it.”
Navalny said there was an innocent explanation for the Yandex-Money payments tagged with foreign IP addresses, in that millions of Russians live abroad and many more are out of the country for their summer holidays. Also, hundreds of thousands living in Russia use foreign IP addresses, he wrote.
Incumbent Mayor Sergei Sobyanin will not take part in scheduled televised debates ahead of the 8 September election, a campaign spokeswoman said 10 August.
Sobyanin is polling at around 75 percent to just 15 percent for Navalny, the Guardian writes.
Financial commentators and even soccer experts are trying to explain the consequences of a split between Russian and Belarusian producers of a humble mineral product.
The decision by Russia’s Uralkali to pull out of Belarusian Potash, a joint venture with the Belarusian Belaruskali, could have a significant impact on the Belarusian economy. Belarus is the world’s third largest producer of the potassium-rich product used primarily as a fertilizer. Uralkali’s shock decision was “a move that experts likened to Saudi Arabia leaving OPEC,” Reuters writes.
Belaruskali, the most profitable company in Belarus, accounts for almost 6 percent of the country’s exports, University of Georgia historian Stephen Mihm writes in a commentary for Bloomberg. Shares in potash producers fell sharply on Uralkali’s announcement it would sell potash freely on the world market. The Russian company may be setting up a bid to take over Belaruskali by deliberately pushing down the price of potash, Mihm writes.
“That Uralkali’s majority shareholder, billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, is a reputed front man for the Kremlin increases the likelihood of this scenario,” he conjectures.
One industry leader sees things very differently. Norbert Steiner, chief executive of Germany’s K+S, Europe's largest potash producer, told a German newspaper there was “no economic sense” behind Uralkali’s step.
“Uralkali ended up damaging itself with its surprising strategic turn, since its own share price has dropped noticeably in recent days," Steiner said, according to Reuters.
By 13 August, K+S shares had fallen 30 percent, Bloomberg Businessweek reports, and deals between smaller producers indicated prices had fallen by about $50 a ton from a previous level of $400.
But the chief executive of North America’s biggest potash producer, Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, said 7 August that he did not expect prices to remain so low.
In the potash plunge Kerimov’s personal fortune fell by around $500 million, at least temporarily, forcing him to put some of his most valuable assets on the market – star players for the Anzhi Makhachkala soccer team, Guardian soccer analyst Jonathan Wilson writes.
Kerimov bought the team in his home republic of Dagestan two years ago and went on a spending spree, luring famous players like Brazil’s Roberto Carlos and Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon with multimillion-dollar contracts. Eto’o, along with Russian national team captain Igor Denisov and other Anzhi stars now look set to be sold off, probably to Western European clubs.
The head of the Serbian government’s Kosovo office used the occasion of a sad anniversary to reprise his criticism of the Pristina government and the EU’s legal mission to Kosovo, EULEX.
Aleksandar Vulin and other Serbian dignitaries attended a ceremony 12 August marking 10 years since two young Serbs were killed and four others wounded by machine gun fire as they swam in a river in Gorazdevac, near Peja (Pec) in western Kosovo.
“I demand of EULEX that they either admit they are completely powerless and cannot solve any crime against Serbs, or to reopen the investigation in the case of the children killed on the Bistrica river,” Vulin said.
Last week Vulin said it was unacceptable for ballots in upcoming local elections in Kosovo to bear symbols of the state of Kosovo, which Serbia does not recognize. He accused Pristina of wanting to discourage Serbs from voting in order to weaken the bilateral agreement signed this spring that granted a degree of autonomy to Kosovo Serbs.
The chairman of the Serbian parliament’s committee on Kosovo, Milovan Drecun, took a milder tone, saying 12 August he expected the dispute over the ballots would be solved soon.
Drecun criticized calls for an election boycott coming from some Kosovo Serbs. He said a Belgrade-backed single list of candidates would demonstrate Serbs’ political unity.
Those who kept calling for a boycott failed to realize that times have changed, he said. “With this behavior, they have undermined themselves as representatives of Serbs in the north.”
The Czech Catholic Church has filed more than 11,000 claims for the return of property confiscated by the communist regime since parliament approved a controversial church restitution law last year, The Prague Post reports.
Church restitution became law after years of debate between conservatives and left-wingers over the merits of returning billions of dollars’ worth of church properties.
Properties worth 75 billion crowns ($3.8 billion) are to be returned to 17 religious denominations, which will also receive monetary payments of 59 billion crowns ($3 billion) spread out over 30 years. In addition, the state will gradually stop paying the salaries of clerics and other subsidies over the next 17 years.
Although opinion surveys show most Czechs favor some form of church restitution, the new law was opposed by a large majority, a poll taken in October found. Only one in six respondents supported the law, and 29 percent agreed that the confiscation of church property under the communists was fair.
Just 1 million Czechs declared themselves Roman Catholics in the 2011 census in a total population of 10.5 million; 3.6 million said they had no religious affiliation and 4.8 million did not answer the question.