Central EuropeHungary got quite a bit of negative attention this week, and for more than solely-political reasons. To add to the constitutional changes that Fidesz has put into action, they've decided to annoy Brussels with an ad hoc tax to pay EU fines. Delightful. It had one thing going in its favor: the ruling on the violent interrogation was upheld.
Romania made two big decisions this week: 1) they are abandoning their original EU target year and postponing until 2020 and 2) they are proposing a property restitution bill to settle disputes from collectivization during the Soviet era. A Romanian daily paper is concerned that this will fuel the Romanian real estate bubble.
Germany has a new party emerging: Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), which has an outline of its political stances here (in German - sorry!). Surprise, surprise, they are not pro-EU/United States of Europe and challenging the CDU/CSU coalition that's been in power since Merkel stepped up the podium.
BalkansSERBIA AND KOSOVO REACHED AN AGREEMENT! At the 11th hour, no less! The Twittersphere has praised this to the skies and I am a happy person. No details on the deal quite yet, but the fact that they got it done and that Serbia can confidently face the EU for accession talks is nearly miraculous. Ashton is THE WOMAN. She brought an end to negotiations that have been going on since last year.
Serbia faced its own domestic attack the week prior, with 13 people gunned down. The funerals were held this past week and heartbreaking pictures were put up.
Slovenia faces the necessity of labor market reforms, which are aimed to alleviate youth unemployment, create greater flexibility, and increase competitiveness. Businesses are pushing for further reforms, though praising this as a step in the right direction. There was speculation on Slovenia's outlook as well.
Bosnia-Herzegovina has faced some scrutiny over their refusal to change their laws to comply with a new human rights ruling. The government has posts reserved for Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs, but Štefan Füle has made a visit to push Bosnia to open these posts to minority groups. This is a generally sensitive issue in the Balkans, since ethnic warfare is not that far in the past.
Montenegro is still in stalement over the presidential dispute, but in spite of this, Ashton is very complimentary to Montenegro and looking forward to their EU contributions. I did a piece about the country this past week as well.
Bulgaria is embroiled in a scandal about the domestic police wire tapping its politicians. Given the uproar over the cost of utilities in Bulgaria (resulting in the PM resigning), subsequent self-immolations, losing their Schengen bid, and general discontent, this piece of news has worried Europe as election nears on May 12. GERB (the part of the ousted PM) shows to be ahead in the polls out of 38 political parties campaigning.
Ashton is making a tour of the Balkans to show the EU's commitment to the region, which is needed during such newsworthy times.
BalticsYou may not have remembered about the twitter saga between Paul Krugman and Toomas Hendrik Ilves (President of Estonia), but it was turned into an opera called "Nostra Culpa" ("Our Fault") and you can listen to it here. You're welcome.
Fun DiversionsBecause it's not worth studying anything, unless some of it is fun.
Lenin luring bad kids into building communism.
A taste of "Ostdeutsch" (East German dialect), which ignores regional differences inside eastern Germany...and then there's the difference in lighting between east and west Berlin.
Promotional posters of Poland. Beautiful design and artistry.
Sarajevo being jolly with their accordions.
A wonderful Hungarian song by Babám called "Vidd el" (Drop Out)
A great jump-roper, Adrienn Banhegyi, shows off her stuff in Hősök tere (Heroes' Square) in Budapest.