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Around the Bloc - 5 June

The important, interesting, or just downright quirky news from TOL’s coverage region. Today: The Hague arbitrates between Russia and Ukraine; Moldova’s uncertain political future; a controversial Polish award recipient; large protests in Prague; economic slowdown expected throughout the region.

5 June 2019

 Moscow, Kyiv Go to Court over Crimea


Ukraine has continued to accuse Russia of financing terrorist acts perpetrated by separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk, as the proceedings in Kyiv’s case against Moscow at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague entered their second day. "Did [Russia] stop the financing of terrorism in Ukraine? No. Did it help us find the authors of terrorist acts? No," Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Olena Zerkal told the court according to RFE/RL. Ukraine filed the case against Russia at the ICJ in January 2017, accusing its neighbor of violating the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. On the first day of the trial, Moscow said that the ICJ doesn’t have jurisdiction over the case. In addition to Moscow's seizure of the Crimean peninsula and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, another issue brought up in court was the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014. Russia has denied any direct involvement in the Ukrainian war and has also suggested that the Ukrainian military downed the Malaysian jet.



Prague Experiences Biggest Protests in 30 Years


Crowds estimated at 120,000 people took to the streets of the Czech capital yesterday calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Andrej Babis, an impressive size that would make this the largest demonstration in the country since the fall of communism, the BBC writes. Protests have been ongoing since the end of April, with tens of thousands of people gathering in the Prague city center at the end of May. Among other reasons, one cause of their anger is Babis’s appointment of Marie Benesova as justice minister. Critics fear she could use her influence to hobble the criminal investigation into Babis’s part in an alleged European Union subsidy fraud. Despite the outpouring of public discontent, his party ANO won the largest share of votes, or 21.2 percent, at the European Parliament elections on 26 May. 




Economic Growth in CEE, Central Asia, Russia Expected to Enter Slowdown


The World Bank’s Global Economic Perspectives report, titled “Heightened Tensions, Subdued Investment,” foresees a slowdown in economies across Europe and Central Asia, which is likely to continue in 2020. “Fiscal stimulus, and the resulting boost to private consumption, will begin to fade in some of the subregion’s largest economies by 2020 (Hungary, Poland, Romania),” the report says. “Shrinking working-age populations, partly reflecting emigration to Western Europe in recent years, limits medium-term growth prospects in Central Europe. Tepid private investment growth could weaken further in the absence of sustained progress on structural reforms,” World Bank experts warn. The biannual report estimates a 1.2 growth rate this year for Russia, which is more optimistic than the country’s own projections of 0.8 percent, The Moscow Times notes. Russia’s slowing economy could have an impact on remittances, and thus on Eastern European and Central Asian economies that rely on them, such as Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Ukraine, the report also points out.



Deadline to Form Parliamentary Majority Looms Over Chisinau


After a visit from U.S., EU, and Russian officials on Monday, the pro-European political bloc ACUM and the pro-Russian Socialist Party (PSRM) reopened talks about forming a coalition, Balkan Insight reports. The talks carry a high stake, since the country has been in a political deadlock since the parliamentary elections at the end of February. Unless a new government is formed, the head of state has to dissolve the parliament and call for early elections, which would jeopardize Moldova’s aid from the EU and the IMF, as the European Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy Johannes Hahn said in Chisinau on Monday. Russia’s economic representative, Dmitry Kozak, seemed pessimistic about the possibility of a coalition. “Russia will not interfere in the political equation in Moldova, but early elections are inevitable given that the three main parliamentary parties have mutually exclusive positions,” he said, according to Balkan Insight.



Reviled in Britain, Celebrated in Poland


President Andrzej Duda has presented the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit to controversial British figure Roger Scruton for his support for the anti-communist struggle, which "contributed to the growth of social courage," in Duda’s words, according to AP. Yesterday’s ceremony coincided with the 30th anniversary of the first partly free elections held in Poland in 1989. The conservative writer and philosopher was fired in April from his position as chairman of the Building Better, Building Beautiful housing commission for his views against homosexuality and Islam, as well as for attacking Hungarian-born philanthropist George Soros, The Guardian writes. At the time, he said in an interview with the New Statesman, cited by The Guardian, “anybody who doesn’t think that there’s a Soros empire in Hungary has not observed the facts.”

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu
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#PragueMediaPoint Conference for journalists, media professionals, and scholars

‚ÄčThe 2019 edition of Prague Media Point will highlight these types of inspiring examples and more. We will offer a mix of scholarly presentations, including keynote addresses; sessions with innovators explaining their solutions; and networking opportunities to promote the exchange of know-how. As in years past, the conference will have a special regional focus on Central and Eastern Europe, though we look forward to covering cases and trends from other parts of the world. – WHAT’S WORKING





Moldovan diaries

The Moldovan Diaries is a multimedia, interactive examination of the country's ethnic, religious, social and political identities by Paolo Paterlini and Cesare De Giglio.

This innovative approach to story telling gives voice to ordinary people and takes the reader on the virtual trip across Moldovan rural and urban landscapes. 

It is a unique and intimate map of the nation.


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