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Around the Bloc – 11 June

The important, interesting, or just downright quirky news from TOL’s coverage region. Today: Dardanians record historic win; Romanian garbage fears; Russian journalist faces drug charges; Albania’s political deadlock grows; and why Eastern Europeans shouldn’t play with matches.

11 June 2019

Albanian Government Threatens President as Feud Deepens

 

The political environment in Albania is unable to ensure democratic elections, President Ilir Meta (pictured) said yesterday in explanation for his decision to cancel local elections scheduled for 30 June. Meta’s decision on Saturday angered the ruling Socialist Party. Party leaders plan to discuss procedures for removing him from office during Thursday’s session of parliament, Top Channel cites a government spokeswoman as saying. Meta said yesterday that under the constitution, general or local elections cannot be held until the president sets a date. He also cited the lack of opposition candidates in many races, calling it “absurd” that at least half of mayoral races were being contested by only one candidate, the Tirana Times reports. The centrist opposition and its smaller Socialist opposition partner have for months accused Prime Minister Edi Rama’s government of corruption and links with the flourishing drug trade.

 

Russian Journalists in Shock at Colleague’s Arrest

 

Three respected Russian newspapers ran identical front pages yesterday in solidarity with a journalist arrested on drug charges that his friends say may be fabricated. Headlines on the front pages of the business papers Vedomosti, Kommersant, and RBC screamed “I/We Ivan Golunov.” Golunov is a reporter for the Latvia-based Russian news site Meduza. Police said they found drugs in his rucksack after the 6 June arrest. According to Meduza, he was on his way to meet a source when he was detained, Euronews reports, saying colleagues describe him as one of the best investigative reporters in Russia. Police denied his lawyer’s claim they beat his client, although a paramedic who examined Golunov in police custody said he had a concussion, bruises, and possible broken ribs, CNN reports. He was later released to house arrest. The three papers published a joint message saying the drug charges could be a reaction to Golunov’s work.

 

 

Wasting Away in Romania

 

Romanians living near waste incineration sites have long worried about the effect on their health, and fears are growing now that China has stopped importing plastic waste, giving Romania’s low-cost incinerators an added advantage. France 24 visited the neighborhood of a cement plant in western Romania powered not by gas or oil but by burning waste, which leaves a thick layer of grime on local houses. The company would not agree to an interview while insisting it complied with European Union regulations. Aside from incinerating garbage, Romania has a very poor record on recycling waste by other means. A report by consultants EY found that just 14 percent of municipal waste was recycled in 2017, an improvement of just 1 point over 2010, Romanian news agency ACT Media says. On the plus side, only Romania and four other EU countries have enacted absolute numerical targets for reducing specific waste materials.

 

Historic Soccer Victory Lifts Kosovans

 

Kosovo’s national football team won a dramatic victory over Bulgaria in yesterday’s qualifying game for the UEFA 2020 European Championship. Elbasan Rashani’s goal in the 92nd minute gave the “Dardanians” a 3-2 win in Sofia and raised the team to third in its qualifying group, a point behind England and the Czech Republic. This first-ever win in a European qualifier represents another milestone in the country’s struggle against the sporting odds. The team won admittance to both UEFA and football’s international governing body FIFA only three years ago, in 2016, eight years after the country declared independence from Serbia. According to Prishtina Insight, the team also faced off-field distractions in Sofia, as chants of “kill kill kill the Albanian” rang out during a training session on Saturday. Politics also tinged the previous qualifier against Montenegro on Friday, as Montenegro’s Serbian coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic refused to take charge of his team's match against Kosovo, after reportedly coming under pressure from Serbian authorities, the BBC reported. He was sacked the next day.

 

Why Do So Many Russians Die in Fires?

 

The risk of dying in a fire has steadily fallen in most of the industrialized world, but one risk factor remains stubbornly high: Eastern Europeans are far more likely to die by fire than people in the rest of Europe and North America. At least, such is the situation mapped out by the latest data from CTIF, the International Association of Fire and Rescue Services. Between 2013 and 2017, Belarus recorded 6.59 fire deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest among the four dozen countries surveyed. Russia came in just behind, and the top eight countries are all former Soviet republics. Rates in Central and Western Europe are generally a third or less of those in the former Soviet states. Russian Investigative Committee figures cited by OZY reported 7,296 deaths by fire in 2018, a rate about four times higher than in the United States. Remarkably, the number of fires reported in Moscow is still well under that in London or New York, and the Russian capital on paper has more firefighters per resident than London.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer and Milka Stoycheva
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​The 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


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