Ombudsman shelters homeless Roma
The authorities have been struggling to house dozens of homeless members of the Roma community after the state ombudsman sheltered them his Tirana office six days ago to highlight their plight.
That day eight Roma families comprised of 37 children, of whom 30 are under the age of seven, were being housed in the Ombudsman’s office. Up to that point the municipality of Tirana had offered a gym and an old military barracks to house the Roma families. However, the Ombudsman’s office said that both structures were not suitable and has insisted on a permanent solution.
Totazani had taken the Roma families into his office the previous week, after visiting a tent camp where they were housed in the outskirts of Tirana, following an arsonist attack on their shacks a year ago. They had been living in near-freezing temperatures in a tent camp without heating, electricity and running water.
Amnesty International called on Albanian authorities to provide adequate housing for the Roma families. “Dozens of Romani people, including the elderly and small children, are facing winter on the streets without a roof over their heads, without any certainty about their future security or adequate assistance from the authorities,” said Jezerca Tigani, the Amnesty International deputy programme director for Europe and Central Asia.
Opposition criticises acquittal of former PM
On 16 January the Supreme Court had dismissed charges of corruption against former Prime Minister Ilir Meta over a state tender for a hydropower station. The court ruled that there were no evidence to convict Meta, who was accused by a former economy minister of trying to influence him over the tender. Prosecutors had sought a two-year prison sentence and a one million lek (about £6150) fine.
Meta was charged with corruption in May after a video, recorded in 2010, was broadcast appearing to show him discussing corrupt deals with former economy minister, Dritan Prifti. Transcripts from the video appeared to show Meta asking Prifti, the former economy minister, to intervene in a hydropower plant concession tender. Meta also appeared to mention a bribe by a businessman of €700,000. At the time of the recording Meta was both deputy prime minister and foreign minister. The tape also appeared to show him boasting about influencing a Supreme Court trial involving the same hydropower plant.
The former prime minister also appeared to ask Prifti to hire activists of his own party, the Socialist Movement for Integration, LSI. The LSI is the junior partner in the government of Prime Minister Sali Berisha. It controls the ministries of economy, foreign affairs and health.
The LSI, a splinter of the opposition Socialist Party headed by Rama, was created in 2004. Meta formerly served as Prime Minister in 2001, while he was one of the highest ranking leaders of the Socialist Party.
Although since the 2009 elections it has held only four parliamentary seats, the LSI swung the government into the hands of Berisha’s right-wing Democratic Party.
Road network gets €53 million EBRD loan
The proceeds of the EBRD loan, being arranged in two tranches, will be used by the Albanian Road Authority to build a 22-kilometre bypass in the city of Fier and a 29-kilometre bypass in the city of Vlore. The project is co-financed by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Union.
The two bypasses are key sections of Albania’s national road network which will connect important roads previously financed by the EBRD and EIB. The project will considerably reduce congestion in the two cities, facilitate economic integration in the region, and underpin the development of tourism in southern Albania.
The EBRD loan is complemented by grant financing worth a total of €5.95 million, which will be used for technical assistance in the preparation of detailed designs for the two bypass roads, as well to support project implementation. The grants are provided by the Italian government, the European Union and the Western Balkans Investment Framework.
In addition a Road Tolling Strategy for Albania and a study on sustainable transport policies in the country will be developed as part of this financing.
Since the beginning of its operations in Albania, the EBRD has invested over €665 million in various sectors of the country’s economy, mobilising additional investments of more than €1.3 billion.
Environmental activists resist mining project in forest
The country’s leading environment-protection groups have for years been campaigning against plans by the Armenian Copper Program (ACP) mining company to develop a massive copper and molybdenum deposit under the Teghut Forest, which is estimated to contain 1.6 million tons of copper and about 100,000 tons of molybdenum.
If implemented, the project would lead to the destruction of some 128,000 trees. Critics say that would wreak havoc on Armenia’s green areas that have already shrunk since the 1990s.
The ACP has pledged to offset the damage by planting new trees in the area and creating more than 1,000 new jobs.
Despite the uproar, the government gave the green light to the controversial project in 2008. Ecologists say about one-fifth of the 357-hectare forest given to the Liechtenstein-registered company has already been cut down in preparation for the start of mining operations.
Chanting “Shame!” the protesters from Yerevan walked on 15 January to reach the mountainous forest located in the northern Lori Province. Scores of police and ACP security guards were deployed to block the demonstrators from advancing deeper into the proposed mining site.
The protesters were also confronted by a large group of local residents who work for APC. The latter angrily dismissed environmentalist warnings that open-pit mining would severely pollute the air, water, and land. “You guys don’t know the plight of the people here,” one man told the protesters. “They were desperate for a living and now live like human beings.”
But some residents of two villages adjacent to Teghut joined the environmentalists in their protest. “They have appropriated people’s wealth and are now doing what they want,” one man said of the ACP owners. “They make people work for only 60,000 ($160) drams a month. People work because they have no other choice.”
Meanwhile the ACP’s holding company, the Vallex Group, accused the protesters of illegally trespassing on its property and disrupting ACP operations. Vallex also owns Armenia’s largest copper smelter, located in the town of Alaverdi, which is also in Lori Province. The town is notorious for its polluted air and high incidence of fatal diseases.
UNDP research shows Armenian population’s social inclusion is very low
The report ‘On Regional Human Development Beyond Transition Towards Inclusive Societies’ examines the level of the population’s inclusion in society seven former socialist countries of Europe and Central Asia. The index of social exclusion in Armenia as compared to Macedonia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Serbia, Tajikistan and Ukraine is not only the highest but also the deepest – having a coefficient of 11.6.
“During our research we found out that there are two Armenias – Yerevan and the rest of Armenia. As compared to other countries, Yerevan is in the middle position by its index of social exclusion, as for Armenia without Yerevan, it is in a low position,” said Balázs Horváth, responsible for Poverty Reduction programme at the Bratislava Regional Centre of UNDP Europe and CIS countries.
Speaking about economic exclusion, Horvath said that having money and income is not enough for social inclusion, people must have the desire to participate in economic and social processes.
“In Armenia jobs are much more important for social inclusion than other economic indicators: having a job for people is much more than having an income,” Horvath explained, adding that the survey is a tool that they wanted to give to policymakers to think broader than GDP when building policies for regions.
EU set to broaden criteria for imposing sanctions on Belarussian officials
“This paves the way for future designations of those responsible for serious human rights violations or the repression of civil society and the democratic opposition or supporting or benefiting from the Lukashenko regime,” the Council of the European Union said following the meeting. “Decisions to add persons and entities to the list of those targeted can be taken in the wake of this Council decision.”
Gunnar Wiegand, of the EU’s European External Action Service, said earlier in January that the EU had considered adding 135 more people to its existing travel ban and an asset-freeze list currently targeted more than 200 Belarussians.
A year ago, on 31 January 2011, the EU Council imposed asset freezes and travel bans on 156 Belarussian government officials and other individuals for their role in “the violations of international electoral standards” in the December 2010 presidential election and the crackdown on civil society and pro-democratic supporters that followed that election. The Council blacklisted 19 more Belarussians in March 2011, 13 in May, four in June and 16 in October, adding to the list mostly judges and prosecutors involved in the prosecution of election protesters. In December, it added the judge and the prosecutor in the trial of prominent human rights defender Ales Byalyatskiy to the list.
On 24 November 2011, the Pershamaiski district court of Minsk sentenced Ales Byalyatskiy, the head of Viasna human right centre, to 4½ years in a medium security penal colony and confiscation of property for alleged tax evasion, together with a substantial fine. On 18 January, Byalyatskiy’s wife Natallia Pinchuk transferred 757,526,717 Belarussian roubles ($90,000) to the account of the justice department of the Minsk city executive committee – money that had been collected through voluntary donations.
Byalyatskiy faced prosecution after information about his accounts in foreign banks was disclosed to the Belarussian authorities by Lithuania and Poland. Byalyatski said in court the money on the accounts was used for human rights activity.
Government aims to promote strategic partnership with China
Gurianov underlined that the event symbolised a new stage in Belarus-China relations. In his view, over the 20 years the two countries managed to establish close ties on the official level as well as on the level of government agencies, regions and companies despite the great distance between them. Gurianov underlined that the $3 billion bilateral trade in 2011 had shown that Belarus and China had achieved a lot in many fields.
Nina Ivanova. chair of the Presidium of the Belarussian Society of Friendship and Cultural Links with Foreign Countries noted that the China-Belarus friendship society had been ongoing for over 50 years. The House of Friendship held a variety of events every year and public diplomacy is a considerable addition to official links between the two states.
China’s ambassador to Belarus, Gong Jianwei, also said that Belarus was a reliable partner to China. The 20th anniversary of Belarus-Chinese diplomatic relations was another milestone in bilateral co-operation. Co-operation in politics, economy, culture and education was on the rise.
Gong Jianwei said that he has been in Minsk only nine days, but he has already felt the cordial and friendly attitude of the Belarusian people and the determination to expand links with China. The day before he visited Lukoml state district power station where a new power unit is to be constructed with the help of China. The ambassador expressed confidence that the power unit would be commissioned as early as in two years. He was convinced that the Chinese New Year starting a few dayts later on 23 January would mark significant achievements in bilateral co-operation.
The reception concluded with a concert featuring Chinese artists who sang Chinese and Belarussian songs.
Grandfather Frost – a New Year tradition
In Belarussian mythology there was a character that greatly influenced the Belarussians and their idea of what Grandfather Frost should look like. This is the ancient deity Zyuzya, the epitome of winter cold. People included him in New Year festive rites up until the 19th century. According to folklore traditions, Zyuzya was a grey-haired old man, short and bearded, without a hat but with an iron club. The Belarussians believed that Zyuzya spent most of the winter in forests. Occasionally he would go to visit villages and bring biting frosts there. When Zyuzya got angry he would hit his club on a tree stub and severe frosts would break out.
On Christmas Day people used to leave some part of kutia as a treat for him. Kutia is a sweet grain pudding, traditionally served in Ukrainian, Belarussian and Polish cultures. Kutia is often the first dish in the traditional twelve-dish Christmas Eve supper (also known as Svyatah Vecherya). The head of the family would throw the first spoon of kutia through a window saying: “Frost, come over here and treat yourself to kutia.”
Escaped war criminal arrested after 5 years on the run
He escaped prison in Foca, where he was sentenced to 20 years in prison, convicted of war crimes committed against Bosniaks. Stanković‘s escape, in May 2007, and fact that he was free all that time has been frustrating for the Bosnian Court. Radovan Stanković was first accused of war crimes at the Hague Tribunal, which then sent him to be processed by Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
After the trial, Stanković was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was found guilty for committing, encouraging and helping in imprisonment, torture, rape and murder of non-Serb civilians from April 1992 to February 1993 in the Foca region as member of the Miljevina battalion, a division of Војска Републике Српске (the army of the Bosnian Serb Republic).
He escaped from Foca prison when he was taken to the Faculty of Dentistry to check his teeth.
The State prosecution service has since charged ten persons for assisting in Stanković‘s escape, including guards from Foca prison, his brother, doctor and nurse where he was supposed to check his teeth. Two receioevbed suspended sentences and the remaining seven were found not guilty.
The Hague Tribunal expressed concern on several occasions, asking for the defendant to be ”brought back where he belongs”. He was arrested on 21 January by local police in Foca.
Economic crisis hits Bosnian heritage sites
Other cultural institutions have closed completely as a result of disagreements over who should pay for their upkeep.
The Dayton peace agreement which ended the 1992-95 war divided the country into two parts, linked by a weak central government. The latter has no ministry of culture and no obligation to provide permanent funding for sites regarded as part of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s national heritage.
Bosnian Serbs largely oppose giving the central government control over the sites, with their politicians arguing that each of the country’s ethnic groups should care for its own heritage.
Adnan Busuladžić, the director of the National Museum, expected to close room by room in the coming weeks as its power supply is cut off due to unpaid bills. “By no will of our own, we have found ourselves in the middle of a political battle and have become a political problem,” he explained.
Among other things, the National Museum’s collection includes the Sarajevo Haggadah, an illuminated manuscript brought to Bosnia by a Jewish family expelled from Spain during the Inquisition and saved from Hitler’s forces during World War 2.
The culture minister of the country’s Bosniak-Croat Federation, Salmir Kaplan, has pledged that his government would provide temporary funding to cover the unpaid utility bills of the National Museum. The Bosnian Serb Republic (Republika Srpska) has a separate culture ministry of its own.
Landslide derails Belgrade-Istanbul train
It was reported that a crane “should arrive soon and put the train back on the tracks”.
Bulgaria has been suffering from bad weather conditions, with flooding near the border with Greece that claimed three lives, and heavy snowfall elsewhere. A border crossing between Bulgaria and Romania that was closed on 5 February is now again open, said the authorities.
Parliament bans shale gas drilling using ‘fracking’ method
While industry experts say that correct drilling is safe, critics of the method say that shale gas drilling can poison underground water and even cause earth tremors. Hydraulic fracking involves releasing gas trapped in rocks by pumping in water mixed with sand and chemicals at high pressure. The technique is used widely in Canada and the US.
The drilling ban voted through parliament set out a fine of 100 million leva (about £43 million) for any infringement.
Currently Bulgaria and many of its neighbours rely heavily on gas imported from Russia. But in Poland, shale gas and oil are seen as promising alternatives to imports of Russian energy. A recent Polish geological report said there were indications of large shale oil deposits near Warsaw and Elblag near the Baltic coast. ExxonMobil has been granted shale oil exploration licences in Poland.
In June 2011 the French parliament imposed a ban on fracking, amid pressure from environmentalists, although the ban did not rule out other methods for recovering shale gas or oil.
Low turnout but EU accession supported by 66% of voters
The overall turnout had been 1,924,585 voters (43.58% of the electorate). On Croatian territory the turnout was 47.5% but of those abroad entitled to vote only 3.47% had done so, Hrvatin said. Just over 4.5 million voters in Croatia and abroad were eligible to vote in the referendum.
The vote abroad had been organised at 106 polling places in 52 countries. Although a tiny turnout, in this group support for accession had been 84.14%.
Hrvatin said that only one irregularity had been reported, in Zagreb, by the Croatian Pure Party of Rights, on which the State Election Commission would decide within the legal deadline.
Prime Minister Zoran Milanović said the overwhelming approval of the referendum to join the EU was a turning point for the country, despite a turnout of only 44% of eligible voters. “From now on, we will be the ones responsible for all decisions we are going to make,” Milanović said, as MPs, government ministers and state dignitaries met at the parliament to celebrate on Sunday evening.
President Ivo Josipović added that it was a big day for Croatia – he was truly happy with the outcome of the referendum. Foreign Minister Vesna Pusić called it “a historical moment”.
Croatia should become the EU’s 28th member in July 2013, once the treaty has been ratified by other member states.
The EU said in a statement: “The upcoming accession of Croatia sends a clear signal to the whole region of South-eastern Europe. It shows that through political courage and determined reforms, EU membership is within reach.”
The turnout of about 44% was however the lowest of any country’s EU accession referendum in the past decade. Senol Selimović, a columnist for the Split daily newspaper Sloboda Dalmacija commented: “At 43.6 percent, the turnout is the lowest ever recorded for this kind of consultation at a European level. It is even lower than the percentage of Hungarians (45.62 percent) who voted in the 2003 referendum on the future of their country inside Europe. If the Croatian government had not changed the constitutional law on the referendum beforehand, the referendum would have failed for lack of voter turnout. But the Croatian political elite avoided this ‘trap’ in time, and they can now clink glasses over the fruits of their long effort to persuade the people on the future of the country … The low turnout, however, does leave a bitter taste, indicating as it does that the arguments put forward by the political leaders in favour of the EU have been unconvincing and that they have failed to inspire citizens to take part in a vote of such historical importance.”
Record temperature low forecast for weekend nights
Prime Minister defends refusal to join EU fiscal compact
The Czech refusal to join the EU’s fiscal compact split the government. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg condemned the PM’s decision, stating that he had damaged the country’s interests.
On 8 February the Czech Senate also dissented from the PM’s decision. It passed a resolution recommending that the country join the compact. Ahead of the vote PM Petr Nečas addressed the Senate to explain the reasoning that led him to stay out of the treaty. However, the majority of senators remained unconvinced, saying that his decision went against the country’s interests.
On 4 February it was reported that members of the Learned Society of the Czech Republic had sent an open letter to Prime Minister Petr Nečas demanding that the country join the EU pact. The scientists wrote that it was time for the Czech Republic to stop behaving like an erratic troublemaker and join the countries that are trying to solve problems. They criticised the PM for saying that the budget pact “does not bring us anything advantageous” while at the same time preaching budgetary discipline at home. The idea that the national interests of the Czech Republic could be markedly different than those of other EU countries was illogical, the scientists’ letter said.
Education minister given last warning from Brussels
Josef Dobeš had earlier announced that he would be presenting 35 new projects aimed at improving the Czech education system. Through these projects, the ministry could receive up to €240 millon in EU funds. Dobeš had been reacting to attacks from the opposition, which had accused him of badly administering EU-funded projects and not doing enough to win EU funds for the country’s education system.
The EU had slammed two of the ministry’s projects for lacking a clear budget plan and allocating excessive funds to promotion. Dobeš came under fire after the European Commission had frozen funding of the two projects.
Czechs have fourth most widespread hypermarkets in Europe
ECHR rules Kinský property case denied a fair trial
The European Court of Human Rights denounced the Czech state for having denied a fair trial to František Oldřich Kinský, an Austrian aristocrat who sued the country over his property claims. The court said that Kinský, who died nearly three years ago, had been subjected to abusive treatment by the Czech authorities when he sued to get back family property worth around 40 billion koruna (about £1.4 billion). The property had been confiscated by the state after the end of the World War 2 under the so-called Beneš decrees.
In its judgement given on 9 February the Strasbourg court criticised Czech politicians for having interfered with the court proceedings, including the then MP, now Prime Minister Petr Nečas, for their inappropriate remarks on the case.
Under the verdict, the Czech Republic has to pay some 334,000 koruna (£11,600) to Oldřich Kinský’s heirs in compensation and court expenses. The court ruling has no effect on the actual case.
Kinský’s vast family property included several châteaux, a palace in Prague, as well as extensive fields and forests. It was confiscated in 1945 on the basis of legislation known as the Beneš decrees which expropriated possessions of all German-speaking inhabitants of Czechoslovakia unless they could prove they took part in the anti-Nazi resistance.
Kinský had argued that he was the rightful owner of the estates at the age of eight, and that his ethnicity was registered as Czech. But most of his claims were rejected by Czech courts.
The Czech state now has three months to appeal the verdict. Attorney Jaroslav Čapek, who represented Kinský in the Czech courts welcomed the verdict. “I am really happy about the ruling. It gives me great satisfaction after all those years of arguments. I kept notifying Czech courts on all levels that they had infringed on Mr Kinský’s right to a fair trial according to the European Convention on Human Rights. As you can see, I was right. The court has now confirmed it.”
František Oldřich Kinský’s lawsuits against the Czech Republic were considered crucial by the authorities as his success would inevitably lead to claims by thousands of former Czechoslovak citizens and their heirs who lost their property under the Beneš decrees.
Parliament decides on direct presidential elections
The decision follows years of public and partisan discussion, and five final hours of heated debate in the Senate. Political scientist Jan Outlý of the University of Hradec Králové commented: “I think it has gone too far now to be stopped. We can see that some politicians are even surprised that it has come so far. So I don’t believe there is anything that can stop direct elections at this stage.”
The change in the method of election means a drastic change in the chances of the candidates announced so far. For instance TOP 09 chairman Karel Schwarzenberg, currently foreign minister, would have had an upwards battle in Parliamentary elections but has a much better chance in a direct election.
Jan Outlý explained the implications. “In my opinion we will have two types of candidates. The first type will be candidates connected to political parties. It is quite difficult to run a nationwide campaign without the support of a strong institution like a political party. The second type of candidates will be independents, people who have enough money to run their own campaign. I believe the first type of candidates will be more successful.”
In a survey by the Median agency, published in the 10 February edition of daily newspaper Mlada fronta dnes, former prime minister Jan Fischer would receive the most votes if direct presidential elections were held today. Roughly a third of respondents said they would cast their ballot for the former prime minister, who headed an interim government between April 2009 and July 2010.
Why the Czechs refused fiscal treaty
Prime Minister Petr Nečas mentioned three reasons for the Czech government refusal to back the EU plan.
However the foreign minister, and head of the coalition TOP 09 party, Karel Schwarzenberg promptly came out very strongly against the decision taken by Nečas, saying it harmed the country’s interests. It would be nearly impossible to join the treaty in March when the fiscal compact should be signed.
Political commentators thought however that TOP 09 would be unlikely to move to bring down the coalition government until later; the obvious date for eventual reconsideration would be March 2013 when the second term of President Václav Klaus expired.
Foreign minister says refusal to sign EU fiscal deal will hurt Czechs
Prime Minister Petr Nečas said after the 30 January EU summit that a chance still remained for the Czech Republic to sign the EU fiscal compact which aims to co-ordinate budget policy and enforce fiscal discipline across the EU. Twenty-five out of 27 EU countries had decided to join the pact. Britain had already refused to do so late in 2011. The fiscal treaty is to be signed in early March. “Approval and ratification of the treaty is a condition of joining the eurozone. If someone wants to be in the eurozone, they have to accede to the treaty,” Nečas said. He explained that constitutional reasons were behind his refusal to commit to the fiscal union. The prime minister cited a lack of rights for non-eurozone members, insufficient attention to debt criteria and President Václav Klaus’ unwillingness to sign the document as reasons for the Czech refusal. However, Necas did not rule out joining the fiscal pact later.
The treaty finalised at the 30 January EU summit spells out the enhanced role of the European Commission in scrutinising national budgets. It will empower the European Court of Justice to monitor compliance and impose fines on rule-breakers. Prime Minister Nečas said one of the reasons for not signing the treaty was the risk of ceding more powers to the European Commission administration. He also noted that the treaty held no advantages for Czechs and said the country’s eurosceptic president Václav Klaus had already made it clear he would not ratify such an agreement. Nevertheless he had not ruled out that the country might join the treaty sometime in the future. That might well turn on whether his coalition partners can also be persuaded.
Czech Republic will be able to take part in euro zone summits
Communist MP suspects government of spying on party
He questioned the prime minister about whether other political parties, including the government Civic Democrats, were being watched. In his view, such tactics could be pursued to draw public attention away from lobbying, backroom deals and political corruption. Prime Minister Petr Nečas denied the claims outright, stressing in his written reply that intelligence service activities were defined by law. The PM maintained that no investigation of the Communist Party could be conducted at the behest of the government without lawful reason.
Brno students to protest against planned reforms
Landmark ruling on right to home birth
What has been described as a breakthrough ruling was delivered in the case of a Prague woman who had sued one of the country’s largest hospitals for refusing to provide a midwife for the home birth of her third child.
The court actually rejected the woman’s plea because it was filed too late – the verdict was in fact issued on the day the child was born. However, referring to a recent ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in a similar case in Hungary, the judge said women indeed had the right to choose the place where they give birth to their children.
The court also said that the woman was entitled to all necessary assistance from the hospital because the state had so far denied the registration of private midwives who would otherwise do the job.
The ruling was not welcomed by the Czech medical community. The head of the Czech Gynaecological and Obstetrical Society, Vladimír Dvořák, called the ruling an empty gesture. “Out attitude has not changed at all. Our utmost concern is to ensure maximum safety for the mother and the newborn, and we still maintain that home births are non legae artis. This means that doctors planning to deliver the baby in the mother’s home would not be following the latest medical standards.”
Hospitals have argued that they do not have enough staff to assist at home births, or the means to train them, a view upheld by a leading Czech expert in medical law, Ondřej Dostál. He believes the government should allow independent midwives to render their services to mothers who want to deliver their babies at home.
On the same day as the court ruling Czech Health Ministry officials announced a working group would be formed to prepare new legislation which will determine conditions under which home births could be allowed and be covered by public health insurance.
National Bank approves €1.5 billion loan to IMF
In December, EU leaders agreed to lend €200 billion to the International Monetary Fund in an attempt to ward off the eurozone debt crisis. The EU asked the Czech Republic to contribute some €3.5 billion euros to the loan; an amount deemed too high by the government. €urozone countries have so far committed themselves to only €150 billion of the required €200 billion.
Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek had said two days earlier that the money would come from the foreign exchange reserves of the Czech National Bank, which would receive a guarantee from the government. Kalousek pointed out that the Czech Republic had gained 175 billion koruna (about £6.1 billion) from the IMF since 2004, and he would consider it indecent and immoral to refuse to participate in the loan.
Census confirms population rise in Prague
Christian Democrats ready for a comeback
At the party’s weekend conference its leader Pavel Belobradek said on 21 January that the Christian Democrats had learned from their mistakes and were ready for a comeback. He said the party would draft a new policy programme based on the party’s traditional values and the society’s present needs. The Christian Democrat leader slammed the ruling parties for conducting what he called “cynical, unscrupulous and confrontational” politics.
Tallinn to sell its excess carbon quota to Japan
The revenues from the sale are destined to be used in low energy consumption theatre lighting and environment-friendly theatre buses. In eight Estonian theatres, outdated lighting equipment will be replaced partly, making stage activities more environment-friendly thereby helping to reduce permanent costs.
The theatre bus programme would enable five theatres to give up the old buses they use now and replace those with modern environmentally friendly ones. Estonia has actively worked on finding buyers for excess AAUs and the government thus far concluded five agreements with European governments, two with Austria and Spain and one with Luxembourg as well as 15 agreements with Japanese corporations. Marubeni Corporation buys AAUs from the Estonian state for the third time.
The history of Pagari 1 dates back to 1911, when William Tulip, a British citizen, bought three plots in the crossroads of Pagari, Pikk and Lai streets in Tallinn. In 1912, a high quality apartment and office building, designed by the architect Hans Schmidt, was erected.
From 1920 the building was used by the authorities of the Republic of Estonia and later occupied by Soviet security forces. Since the beginning of the 1990s, the building had functioned as the Estonian Ministry of Interior Affairs.
Hindrek Leppsalu, the spokesperson for the developer Pagari Residence, said the project is challenging as it requires strict compliance to heritage conditions. “The reconstruction will result in a refurbished façade complemented by high-end finishing that is unique in Tallinn. The building will be restored to its formal glory and initial splendour and will function as a residential property once again,” Leppsalu said. Work is expected to be completed by spring 2013, and eleven apartments have been sold to date.
Spa resort planned for Estonian island of Muhu
At the end of January Estonian developer Novaterra submitted a planning application to the local council, which plans to put the proposals up for public review once full details become available.
Muhu is located next – and is connected by a bridge – to the “spa island” of Saaremaa, which boasts a number of luxury spa resorts and is served by an airport, but currently there is only one spa on Muhu.
Citizenship law needs fixing