12/1/14 – 12/5/14

On Monday, U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Jen
Psaki released a statement criticizing the Azerbaijani
government’s crackdown on media and civil society. “We
are increasingly concerned that the government of
Azerbaijan is not living up to its international human rights
commitments and obligations,” she said. In response, Baku
has condemned the U.S. State Department, stating that the
remarks do not reflect objective reality.
Azer News


On Wednesday, former Georgian Minister of Health
Aleksandre Kvitashvili was appointed to the same position
in the newly formed Ukrainian government. Although the
position means renouncing his Georgian citizenship,
Kvitashvili stated, “I accepted the offer because of my deep
respect of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. I am proud to
receive citizenship in a great country that has a bright
future.” Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili
said that he turned down an offer to be Ukrainian vice prime

On Thursday, Armenian lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to
join the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union next year. The
vote was a clear majority, with 103 MPs in favor of joining.
Protesters have rallied in front of the parliament building for
several days, saying that the union will affect Armenia’s
sovereignty and independence. On January 1, Armenia will
join Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan when the union comes
into force.


On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)
condemned Turkey for discriminating against members of
the Alevi religious minority. The director of the Alevi Cem
Foundation argued that Turkey had discriminated by
refusing to recognize Alevi assembly houses as religious
sites, which are exempted from paying electricity bills. The
ECHR agreed and charged the Turkish state to estimate the
damages within six months.
Al Jazeera


At a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced
that Russia would drop its plans for the South Stream gas
pipeline project. Instead, Russian plans to build a gas hub
on the Turkish-Greek border in order to supply southern
Europe with gas. Russia had faced pushback from the EU
on the pipeline construction, and has been dealing with the
economic effects of international sanctions due to events in
Los Angeles Times


The new Ukrainian government was voted in on Tuesday,
under the leadership of Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk.
Among those retaining previously-held positions in the
Cabinet are Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin and Defense
Minister Stepan Poltorak. New additions include three foreign
nationals who all received Ukrainian citizenship by decree,
including Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, a U.S. citizen;
Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius, a Lithuanian; and
Health Minister Aleksandre Kvitashvili of Georgia.
Deutsche Welle


A Lithuanian military health official has been charged with
spying for Belarus. A man with the initials A.O. is suspected
of having passed classified information to Belarus’s
Intelligence Directorate for five years. The person was
detained on January 24, 2014, and the investigation showed
that the suspect was provided monetary remuneration in
exchange for the collected information. The prosecutor’s
office is unsure whether the information was later transferred
to Russia. This is second case of a Lithuanian citizen being
charged with spying for Belarus over the last two months.
Baltic Course

Moldovan parliamentary elections were held on November
30. With 97% of the votes counted, the pro-Russian
socialist group won the most votes of any party, roughly
20.7% percent, but pro-European parties overall appear to
have won a slim majority over the pro-Russian parties, with
a total of 45% of the vote. However, there have been
questions over the election’s legitimacy due to the barring
of a pro-Russian party, Patria, just four days before the
New York Times

Prime Minister Joomart Otorbayev announced on Monday
that Kyrgyzstan is planning to speed up its accession to the
Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union by signing a series of
treaties at an upcoming Union summit on December 23.
Russia’s parliamentary upper house speaker Valentina
Matviyenko said that Russia is ready “to extend full
cooperation to Kyrgyzstan’s early accession to the Customs
Union and the Eurasian Economic Union.”


French President François Hollande arrived in Kazakhstan
on Friday for a two-day visit aimed at increasing bilateral
cooperation and trade between France and Kazakhstan.
President Hollande was accompanied by a delegation of
business leaders as well as representatives of about 20
French universities. In addition to discussing possibilities for
increasing trade and extending educational and scientific
cooperation, the French delegation is expected to raise
issues of human rights violations in Kazakhstan.


Authorities in Tajikistan’s Sughd province announced on
Wednesday that they had arrested 46 men suspected of
planning to join militants in Syria. The prosecutor’s office
announced that the men were charged with "organizing a
criminal group for participating in armed conflicts or
warfare in other countries" and that they were members of
banned Islamic groups.
Press TV


On Monday, President Islam Karimov hosted China’s
Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun in Tashkent to
discuss security issues in Central Asia and bilateral ties.
Shengkun praised Uzbekistan for hosting the Regional AntiTerrorist Structure of the Shanghai Cooperation
Organization and said that the two countries should jointly
combat terrorist entities such as the East Turkestan Islamic


At a meeting of over 60 countries in London on Thursday, the
United States, Britain, and other allies pledged to support
Afghanistan as the international mission ends. Although no
financial commitments were expected to be made during the
meeting, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pledged
“extraordinary,” although unspecified, levels of American aid
through 2017. The meeting was a follow-up to a meeting in
Tokyo in 2012, during which allies promised $16 billion to
rebuild and stabilize the government.


On December 3, U.S. officials reported that Iran had used F4 Phantoms to launch airstrikes on Islamic State positions in
the Iraqi province of Diyala near the Iranian border. The
officials stated that the attacks took place over the last
several days, while an Iraqi source reported that the strikes
were launched 10 days previously. Iranian officials have
repeatedly denied that Iran carried out airstrikes in Iraq and
both Iranian and U.S. officials have denied any coordination
between the two countries.


On Wednesday, the presidents of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan,
and Iran gathered in Turkmenistan to mark the opening of the
Ozen-Bereket-Gorgan railway connecting the three countries.
The new rail line stretches over 900 kilometers and connects
with Iran’s national rail network in Gorgon. The rail will
facilitate the transit of commercial goods from Central Asia to
Gulf ports.


On Monday, Mongolia re-launched an international tender
to develop the Tavan Tolgoi coal project. Tavan Tolgoi
holds around 7.5 billion tons of coal, yet Mongolia has
struggled to finance its development in the face of a
flagging economy due to declining foreign investment and
sinking commodity prices. The Mongolian Mining Corp
expects a shortlist of top bids by December 15. According
to Prime Minister Chimed Saikhanbileg, Tavan Tolgoi is a
priority project for Mongolia.


British journalist Edward Lucas became Estonia’s first eresident after being presented with his digital ID card by the
Estonian President. Edward Lucas is currently a senior editor at
The Economist and is particularly interested in Estonia’s
“digital society”. Estonia, often considered Europe’s most
wired country, recently passed a law that allows non-Estonians
to become e-residents and provides them with access to
Estonia’s suite of online services, allowing them to conduct
transactions with Estonian banks or register a business in the
The Atlantic

The Ukrainian government has appointed Lithuanian Aivaras
Abromavicius as head of the Ministry of Economics of
Ukraine. Abromavicius, who is a partner of the East Capital
asset management group, was told by Ukrainian President
Petro Poroshenko that he would have full power to
implement any desired reforms and policies. Abromavicius
told the press, “We will try to apply our experience gained in
the West.”


Inga Priede, a member of Latvia’s Unity party, resigned this
week after she commented on Twitter that the Nazis were
right to kill homosexuals. Priede initially denied posting the
comments, but then deleted them and apologized before
resigning. Unity members have stated that the remarks were
unacceptable and do not represent the party stance as a
whole. Last month, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics
publicly came out, making him the first openly gay Latvian


The Polish embassy in Prague has lodged a complaint against
mobile phone operator T-Mobile over a TV commercial
depicting a Polish man as a fraudster. The Polish ambassador
made a statement declaring that the clip harms relations
between the two countries. The Polish embassy has requested
that the commercial be removed from broadcast. T-Mobile
expressed regret and said that it will consider pulling the
Radio Poland

Radio Praha

Last week, President Kiska announced that Slovakia will hold a
referendum on whether to retain a ban same-sex marriage on
February 7, 2015. The conservative group Alliance for Family
gathered the necessary 400,000 signatures to call a referendum
and the Constitutional Court ruled last month that such a
referendum would not violate the constitution. Voter turnout
must reach the 50% minimum threshold for the referendum to
be binding, a condition that has been met by only one of the
seven referendums held in Slovakia since 1993.
Zee News

On Wednesday, the foreign minister of Hungary summoned the
U.S. envoy after U.S. senator John McCain called Prime
Minister Viktor Orban a “neo-fascist dictator”. McCain made
the comment after the appointment of Hollywood producer
Colleen Bell as U.S. Ambassador to Hungary. Senator
McCain’s remarks were as follows: “[Hungary] is on the verge
of ceding its sovereignty to a neo-fascist dictator, getting in bed
with Vladimir Putin, and we're going to send the producer of
'The Bold and The Beautiful' as the ambassador.”


Last week, Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s government lost a
coalition ally, as the ethnic Hungarian party UDMR announced
that it was pulling out of the coalition. UDMR’s departure
comes in the wake of Ponta’s surprise defeat in the Romanian
presidential elections last month. After losing to Klaus Iohannis
in the election, Ponta ruled out the possibility of resigning his
position as Prime Minister and maintained that his coalition was
stable. Ponta’s coalition will remain in power, with the Social
Democrats and three junior coalition members retaining a 60%
majority in Parliament.

On Sunday, Robert Biedron became the first openly gay mayor
in Poland. Biedron won 57% of the vote in Słupsk, a city in
northern Poland. Biedron became the country’s first openly
gay lawmaker in 2011 when he won a seat in the lower house
of Parliament. Although nearly 20 candidates coming out as
gay or bisexual before the election, Biedron was the only
LGBT candidate to win a race in this round of elections.

After Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement on
Monday that Russia was abandoning plans for the
construction of the South Stream pipeline, Bulgarian Prime
Minister Boyko Borisov expressed hope that the issues with
the project could still be resolved. After meeting with
Borisov, European Commission President Jean-Claude
Juncker accused Russia of blackmailing Bulgaria and insisted
that the construction of the pipeline can still go forward if
Russia will work to bring the project in line with EU rules.
Wall Street Journal


On Wednesday, the Russian government’s watchdog agency
for agricultural products (Rosselkhoznadzor) imposed a ban on
the imports of vegetables from Albania starting on December 8.
Head of Rosselkhoznadzor Sergey Dankvert said that,
“…Albania has been used as a cover for imports from the
European Union via Belarus,” and that Albania has failed to
provide Russia with adequate information on its fruit and
vegetable production.


Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Tuesday that
Russia’s decision to halt the South Stream gas pipeline
project was bad news for Serbia, since Serbia has invested in
the project for seven years. Vucic said that the project would
have benefited Serbia, but now, “…we have to pay for the
conflict between great powers.” Vucic hopes the project will
not be completely abandoned and plans to discuss possible
further steps with Russian President Vladimir Putin upon
returning to Serbia from a UN Security Council Session.


The Macedonian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVR) has
disputed the legitimacy of a video posted online last Friday
allegedly depicting the forgery of Macedonian passports.
The 45-second clip shows an apartment facility that appears
to be manufacturing Macedonian passports. Some fear that
the fake passports were illegally distributed during elections
earlier this year to influence outcomes. However, the MVR
has stated that they have not found evidence of forgery.

Balkan Insight

The World Jewish Restitution Organization announced that
Croatia will give land and a six-story office building in
Zagreb valued at $4 million to the city’s Jewish community
as restitution for the property seized from Jews during World
War II. The income from the property will help fund the
operation of the Zagreb Jewish community’s senior-care
facility and other community programs. Today, some 2,000
Jews live in Croatia, compared to more than 25,000 before
World War II.


On Thursday, the Russian Embassy sent a diplomatic note to
the Foreign Ministry of Montenegro demanding an
explanation for billboards in Podgorica mocking Russia. An
anonymous group describing itself as the “Montenegrin
Patriots” rented billboards and put up posters with the NATO
logo and including the slogan “Better a banana in the hand
than the Russian boot in the neck”. Montenegro's Foreign
Ministry responded to media inquiries with a statement
characterizing the billboards as "absolutely unacceptable".
Balkan Insight

On Tuesday, authorities in Kosovo destroyed over 2,000
firearms that were seized in police operations or used in
crimes and stored in evidence rooms. The firearms were
melted down and poured into molds to make manhole
covers. The destruction of the weapons was part of an
ongoing effort to improve security in Kosovo, where
thousands of firearms have remained illegally in the hands
of civilians since the separatist war against Serbia in 19981999.
FOX News

Euro News

On Thursday, Slovenia appointed spa resort manager
Zdravko Pocivalsek as its economy minister after his
predecessor resigned amid allegations of fraud in October.
Prime Minister Miro Cerar’s center-left SMC party
nominated Pocivalsek, who has never run for office.
Pocivalsek has announced that he favors “well-considered”
privatization. Before his appointment, Pocivalsek served as
the chief executive of a state-owned spa resort, Terme
Olimia, for 15 years.

The International Commission on Missing Persons
announced on Thursday that it has found and identified 70%
of the estimated 30,000 missing people from the Yugoslav
wars, three-quarters of whom were from Bosnia. The head of
the ICMP Kathryne Bomberger described the achievement as
“unprecedented” and said that “no other country in the world
has resolved such a large number of missing persons cases.”
Bomberger also called on Bosnia to remain vigilant in
accounting for the remaining missing persons.