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Around the Bloc – 13 May

The important, interesting, or just downright quirky news from TOL’s coverage region. Today: fiery protests in Albania; upheaval after Lithuanian election; food in Central Asia; Putin’s fall heard around the world; Romania, the EC’s new bad boy.

13 May 2019

Albanian Protests Escalate, Set to Continue

 

This weekend saw the ongoing protests in Albania take a new turn, as crowds hurled petrol bombs at the building housing Prime Minister Edi Rama’s office, as well as the parliament, after months of calls for Rama’s resignation, according to Reuters. Despite casualties numbering around a dozen policemen and several protesters, opposition Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha said demonstrators were “determined to keep waging a bigger and more resolute battle as long as the government was keeping Albania apart from Europe.” Still, the AP notes, international bodies, such as the U.S. Embassy in Albania and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, condemned the violence, with the EU office in Tirana saying that “differing political points of view need to be handled through debate and dialogue," as cited by the AP.  

 

 

Lithuanian PM to Step Down After Presidential Defeat 

 

Current Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis has vowed to step down after conceding defeat in the presidential elections that took place yesterday, the BBC reports. "The failure to get into the second round is an assessment of me as a politician," Skvernelis told reporters, as cited by the BBC. Partial results from 1,631 of the country's 1,972 voting districts show economist Gitanas Nauseda leading the polls with 31.6 percent of the vote, followed by Finance Minister Ingrida Simonyte with 27.2 percent, according to AP. Skvernelis came in at around 21 percent. The two will face each other in a runoff on 26 May. The president is in charge of foreign policy but has no direct influence on domestic affairs. Candidates can only promise to apply moral suasion on lawmakers.

 

 

Putin Trips, Falls, and Stops the Presses  

 

While the fall of one of the most powerful world leaders would understandably provide headlines, Russian state-owned news website Sputnik wonders if Western media has not been slightly over the top in its coverage of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fall in the ice rink after a hockey victory. While noting that the sports-loving Russian leader “only took up hockey before his 60th birthday,” Sputnik also reported that Putin scored eight goals during the match and thus made a decisive contribution to his team’s triumph by a score of 14-7. Thus, the “Western media's facetiousness about the incident “ and “the jokes on social media mocking Putin's skating skills, or saying they were now worried about the fate of the carpet he tripped on” were slightly tasteless, Sputnik suggested.

 

 

 

Let Them Eat Burgers – in Moderation

 

As junk food spreads across Central Asia, so does obesity among young generations, Eurasianet reports.  Further compounding the issue is that the obesity crisis emerged as “the region still faces crippling problems related to malnourishment, including stunting,” Eurasianet cites Amirhossein Yarparvar, regional health and nutrition specialist for UNICEF, as saying. While the underlying causes of obesity are the same as elsewhere sedentary lifestyles and diets rich in fat and sugar – the local cuisine doesn’t help matters either. Regional staples such as plov, a rice-based dish with meat and fat, or samsa, are unlikely to get a dietician’s seal of approval anytime soon.

 

 

EC to Romania: Get Your Act Together, Or Else 

 

The European Commission has issued yet another warning to wayward EU member Romania over its planned judicial changes. In a letter published by daily Romania Insider and addressed to Romanian authorities, EC First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said that if Bucharest greenlighted planned changes to its criminal code, Brussels would place it under a new control mechanism that would be a lesser evil than Article 7 of the EU Treaty, which would have led to some of Romania’s rights within the union.

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu
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