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Today's Headlines for:
Sunday, November 08, 2009

Belarus, Ukraine strategic partnership, EU relations, Abkhazia, S Ossetia recognition, Union State, Socialism; Culture, Opposition and Polish scandal

  • From the Top...
  • #460

    Belarus, Ukraine close to strategic partnership

    From: BelTA
    Relations between Belarus and Ukraine resemble strategic partnership more and more. Alexander Lukashenko made the relevant statement in his speech before the Academic Council of the T. Shevchenko National University of Kiev on 5 November.

    “The existing system of political, trade and economic, educational, cultural and other ties between our countries is a solid foundation for consequent dynamic development of the bilateral relations,” remarked the Belarusian head of state. He also added that Ukraine has been and will be a good neighbor and the closest friend for Belarus.

    “I am full of hope that all the challenges we are facing (including cross-border, energy and humanitarian cooperation and joint work within the Eastern Partnership initiative) will be fulfilled,” the Ukrainian President underlined.

    According to Viktor Yushchenko, Belarus-Ukraine relations are relations of strategic partners. The two countries are maintaining close cooperation in the political area; the economic cooperation is significant too. ““Though this is your first official visit to Ukraine over 12 years, all this points out to the special relations between the two countries. Our relations with the Belarusian people are remarkable; they are only getting stronger with time. These are neighborly relations based on trust,” the Ukrainian President said.

    Alexander Lukashenko pointed out the steadily growing trade between the two countries over the last few years. In 2008 alone the bilateral trade totaled almost $5 billion. This year the pace has reduced a bit due to the crisis but slight growth has been in place since Q3 2009.

    The President believes that the existing level of economic relations can advance the two countries from plain trade to deeper manufacturing cooperation, ensuring a free and equal access of the sides to markets and technologies. “Joint ventures in Belarus and Ukraine allow creating new jobs and making end products cheaper, meeting national interests. Fairs and transboundary trade are getting a boost,” said the head of state. He also mentioned the productive partnership of Belarus and Ukraine in preserving and expanding educational and cultural ties.

    Lukashenko: no unmanageable problems in Belarus-Ukraine relations ever

    Belarus and Ukraine will never run into unmanageable problems in their relations, said President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko as he met with Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Vladimir Litvin on 6 November.

    “We will never have unmanageable issues. You can stop worrying about your northern neighbor,” noted the head of state. The presidents of the two countries have been consistently working for three years to come up with some concrete advances for the meeting. “The present visit testifies that we are summing up all the achievements and state that all the problems, as a matter of fact, issues have been resolved,” noted Alexander Lukashenko. The President underlined that it is now possible to start talking about the strategic partnership of the two countries.

    Alexander Lukashenko remarked that since the negotiations with his Ukrainian counterpart the previous day the sides have made several important decisions. In particular, the sides have agreed that the Belarus-Ukraine border treaty would be forwarded to the Belarusian parliament for ratification. A lot of decisions have been made regarding the cooperation between provinces, with investment cooperation matters addressed. The President underlined that now neither the two parliaments nor the two presidents can be blamed. Executive authorities now have to follow the determined policy. The presidents have also discussed matters concerning the European and eastern vectors and the progress in implementing joint projects.

    Speaking about political aspects, Alexander Lukashenko mentioned the considerable rapprochement of views of the Belarusian and Ukrainian sides regarding the understanding of global matters and pointed out the affinity of the agenda of the two countries. The President said that some mass media made ambiguous remarks regarding the talks of the two presidents. “Some people don’t like our rapprochement up to the level of strategic relations. But it is not our problem but the problem of those who react to it like that,” stressed Alexander Lukashenko. “There should be no allergy regarding our talks in Kiev”. The Belarusian head of state underlined that the two countries will always be guided by interests of the two nations without damaging interests of other states.

    Alexander Lukashenko expressed a wish to decently survive the oncoming political events. “I am convinced that these elections are of historical importance because everyone understands in what direction Ukraine must go,” he said.

    Recalling his visit to Minsk, Vladimir Litvin remarked that he had seen dynamics, order and mutual understanding between the authorities and the nation, the things that Ukraine lacks. He also assured that in the area of parliamentary cooperation they will do their best for the sake of fruitful collaboration.

    Belarus expects EU to lift all sanctions

    Belarus expects the European Union to lift all sanctions and restrictions and to cancel discriminations in visa and trade policies, boosting the financial and technical support. Alexander Lukashenko made the relevant statement in his speech before the Academic Council of the T. Shevchenko National University of Kiev on 5 November.

    Alexander Lukashenko said that the present state of Belarus-EU relations can be characterized as a complex of mutual opportunities and advantages. “I expect pragmatism and sound sense to continue prevailing in Brussels’ approaches to Minsk and that the European Union will use the obvious advantages of cooperation with Belarus for the sake of building the united Europe without new Berlin walls and barriers,” stressed the President.

    The head of state remarked that the European Union’s significance for Belarus is easy to explain. At present the European Union is the largest trade and economic partner of Belarus. Even during the crisis the volume of Belarus’ exports to the European Union is higher than that to other regions, with Belarus’ enjoying a trade surplus. In turn, Belarus confidently plays the role of a reliable partner of the European Union in addressing strategic tasks, which are important for all the countries of the continent — from security to uninterrupted transit of Russian energy resources to European consumers.

    According to Alexander Lukashenko, relations with the European Union are gradually becoming productive and pragmatic, cooperation in areas of mutual interests is developing. “You all know that just like Washington Brussels has introduced and has used restrictions on contacts with Belarus for quite some time. Due to the fact our connections in the West objectively lag behind those in Russia. But we are not the ones to blame,” stated the Belarus President.

    Alexander Lukashenko thanked the Ukrainian side one more time for supporting Minsk in its establishment of relations with Brussels.

    Belarus, Ukraine working on joint projects for Eastern Partnership

    Belarus and Ukraine are working on joint projects as part of the Eastern Partnership initiative.

    Viktor Yushchenko remarked that the European Union welcomes the tight cooperation of Belarus and Ukraine within the Eastern Partnership initiative.

    Recalling the negotiations between the two heads of state on the previous day, Viktor Yushchenko said that an agreement had been reached for Belarus and Ukraine to implement joint projects within the Eastern Partnership initiative. The ministries of foreign affairs and the customs services of the two countries will soon talk over the projects the two countries can cooperate in.

    Alexander Lukashenko said that he had traveled to this western part of Ukraine in order to discuss 2-3 things with Viktor Yushchenko. “We have a bit of work to do today,” he added.

    “I would like to emphasize that we are going to evaluate the ‘window of opportunity’ primarily by its effectiveness for Belarus, practical return in the form of genuine advance of the cooperation with the European Union as part of the projects we have been offered,” said the Belarusian head of state.

    Alexander Lukashenko said that Belarus and Ukraine will soon come up with specific proposals regarding Eastern Partnership projects. The agreement was reached at the meeting of the two heads of state in Kiev on 5 November. “I think that our success is inevitable if we are together,” said the President of Belarus.

    Alexander Lukashenko believes that the determination to work together in the areas of common interest of Minsk, Brussels and Moscow testifies to the fact that along with rejecting the idea of ‘needing to choose’ between Russia and the European Union Belarus suggests absolutely feasible schemes for trilateral cooperation.

    The Ukraine President underlined that the most difficult problems had been dealt with the previous day and the final decisions had been made on the state border issue which had stayed unresolved for 18 years. The presidents had agreed that signing a re-admission document would be the next step.

    Lukashenko awarded title of honorary doctor of Kiev University

    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko was awarded the title of Honorary Doctor of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kiev. The university’s rector presented a diploma to the Belarusian President on 5 November.

    Alexander Lukashenko was awarded the doctor’s degree for his big contribution to the development of bilateral Belarusian-Ukrainian relations, and strengthening of cultural and educational ties. Up till now, seventy-five people have been awarded Honorary Doctors titles of the Taras Shevchenko University, including Indian Prime Minister Indira Ghandi, former president of the United States Bill Clinton, Czech ex-president Vaclav Havel, and also Islam Karimov, Mikheil Saakashvili, and Emomalii Rahmon.

    The Belarusian President made an entry in the university’s Book of Honorary Guests. “It is very good that your university preserves the traditions of enhancing the educational, cultural and intellectual potential of Ukraine and Europe on the whole. The contribution of the university to the strengthening and development of ties between fraternal Belarusian and Ukrainian nations deserves the highest appreciation,” wrote Alexander Lukashenko.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Belarus-EU relations enter period of renaissance

    From: BelTA
    Relations between Belarus and the European Union are entering the period of a renaissance, Vladimir Skvortsov, chairman of the foreign policy analysis department of the Foreign Ministry of Belarus, said at a plenary meeting of the 12th Minsk Forum.

    “For the past year and a half we have been making up for what we have missed in the previous decade. Ten years of silence in our relations did no good” said Vladimir Skvortsov.

    Due to the enduring efforts of Minsk and Brussels, the reciprocal steps have helped to reverse the negative trends, he said.

    Vladimir Skvortsov said that Belarus welcomes the intensification of economic, technological and other types of cooperation with the European Union. “Belarus is interested in the European Union from the point of view of additional impetuses to the modernization, first of all, in the economic sector. Belarus, in turn, is important for the EU as a transit corridor and guarantor of stability,” said Vladimir Skvortsov. He also added that Belarus views regional cooperation as the core area of the Eastern Partnership.

    Belarus ready for Eastern Partnership full participation

    Belarus is ready to take an active part in the Eastern Partnership initiative without any conditions, Vladimir Makei, Head of the Administration of the President of Belarus, said at an opening ceremony of the 12th Minsk forum, Belarus and the Eastern Partnership.

    “The Eastern Partnership initiative is a very interesting project for us and we are ready to participate in it without laying down any extra terms both in the bilateral and multilateral format,” Vladimir Makei stressed.

    According to him, Belarus’ participation in the Eastern Partnership is by no means an attempt to change the country’s political course but only a wish to balance its foreign policy highlighting the development of good-neighbor relations with all European countries. “Belarus’ multi-directed policy cannot be aimed against anyone,” Vladimir Makei said.

    Belarus counts on German active part in privatization

    Belarus hopes Germany will take an active part in a privatization process and increase investing in the Belarusian economy.

    Vladimir Makei expressed hope for a German expert assistance in developing a favorable business climate in Belarus.

    “Germany is one of our key partners. And I would like to stress the role the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations and its Chairman Klaus Mangold play in the business cooperation development between the two countries as well as providing the economic and political elite of Germany with objective and full information on Belarus,” said Vladimir Makei. Belarus-Germany cooperation covers all areas including the industry and culture, the Head of the Administration underlined.

    According to Vladimir Makei, the future European integration is possible only in case “another Berlin wall that allegedly represents a dividing line between West and East is pulled down”.

    Lithuania expects EU to liberalize trade regime for Belarus soon

    The European Union may liberalize its trade regime with Belarus in the near future, Deputy Foreign Minister of Lithuania Evaldas Ignatavicius told a press conference on 4 November.

    “For example, Belarus may rejoin the Generalized System of Preferences,” said Evaldas Ignatavicius.

    Speaking about relaxing of visa requirements, Evaldas Ignatavicius said that the agreement on cross-border cooperation of Belarus with Lithuania, Latvia and Poland should help address this problem.

    According to the Lithuanian diplomat, participants of the forthcoming session of the Council of the European Union are set to adopt a number of decisions regarding the additional financing of the Eastern Partnership projects.

    Belarus’ Parliament to set up working group to consider recognition of Abkhazia, S Ossetia

    From: BelTA
    The Belarusian Parliament will set up a working group, which will consider the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Sergei Maskevich, Chairman of the International Affairs and CIS Relations Commission of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus, noted during a session of the lower house council on 5 November.

    According to Sergei Maskevich, on 4 November the commission held a session with the participation of members of the Council of the Republic and First Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Petrishenko. A decision was taken to set up the working group to consider the requests of Abkhazian and South Ossetian parliaments to recognize the independence of these republics. The working group will include Belarusian parliamentarians of both the houses.

    The working group will be set up to obtain additional information and produce the recommendations which will help the Belarusian parliamentarians consider this issue.

    The session has made a decision to send a group of Belarusian parliamentarians to Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia to meet with representatives of executive and legislative powers, study the public opinion, political and economic situation.

    No rigid timeline for parliamentary reading on Abkhazia, S Osssetia.

    “We are not talking now about any specific dates. We have completed another stage of consideration of this issue,” the deputy said,

    According to him, the speeding up of the process of considering requests of the parliaments of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to recognize their independence should not affect Belarus’ relations with Europe. “This is directed against no particular country,” Sergei Maskevich said.

    A decision to create a working group to analyze the situation was taken on 4 November. It may take several weeks for the working group to study the situation. Sufficient foundation has been laid to further study this issue, Sergei Maskevich said.

    A reminder, on 4 November the permanent commission for interregnal affairs and links with the CIS of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly took a decision to set up a parliamentary commission to study the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Belarusian parliamentarians will travel to Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia to study the situation on-site. “Georgia showed a great interest in this,” Sergei Maskevich added.

    Sergei Shukhno: a lot has been done over the ten years of Union State development

    From: BelTA
    – A lot has been done over the ten years of the Union State development, said Sergei Shukhno, Deputy Secretary of State of the Union State, during an online conference.

    Sergei Shukhno reminded that the Union State will celebrate its first full-value jubilee in December. “We will certainly celebrate this jubilee,” he said. Sergei Shukhno added that following a decision of the Union State Council of Ministers an organizing committee led by Secretary of State of the Union State Pavel Borodin has been set up and a set of events timed to the date are being prepared.

    Signed on 8 December 1999, the Union State Treaty is the only document of the Belarusian-Russian integration. “Over the years an effective bilateral mechanism of cooperation has been created. It allows implementing the strategic potential of our partnership and searching for optimal and mutually beneficial solutions during the construction of the Union State,” stressed the Deputy Secretary of State. “It has produced the common economic space, which enabled manufacturing cooperation schemes that involve thousands of companies in Belarus and Russia. Trade and economic ties are developing fast”.

    During all these years prior to the global financial and economic crisis the trade turnover has been on the rise and exceeded $34 billion in late 2008, 7 times up since the mid-1990s. The Union State started adopting social and economic development forecasts, trade and economic cooperation plans, fuel and energy budgets, plans for the industry and agriculture.

    Sergei Shukhno also mentioned the role of the Union State budget, which is a vital indicator of the integration and reflects priorities for the Union State formation and development. In 2009 the budget exceeded RUB4.5 billion, more than twice as much as in 2000. The money is mainly channeled into working out and implementing joint programs. In 2009 over 40 joint programs on industry, power engineering, construction, transport, communication and information technologies, military and technical cooperation, law enforcement and security will be financed. Measures in the area of social policy, healthcare, physical training and sports, education, mass media are an important part of the Union State budget spending.

    “A lot can be said about the results achieved over the ten years. I think that we will have reasons to analyze the successes and problems yet,” said Sergei Shukhno. In his opinion, the fact that the two countries have managed to form quite an effective legal base to enable equal rights of Belarus and Russia citizens is one of the most important achievements of the Union State. “The absence of border and customs control at the border, freedom of movement and choice of residence, equal rights of Belarusian and Russian citizens to employment, salaries, education, and other guarantees are only a few of the achievements we have secured over these years,” stressed the Deputy Secretary of State.
  • Note: There is n interesting website set up specifically for the Union State develoment and can be seen HERE

  • Cultural Scene...

    Spring/Summer 2010 Fashion Week opens in Minsk with show of linen clothes

    From: Navany
    The Spring/Summer 2010 Fashion Week has opened in Minsk with a show featuring linen clothes.

    New talents and big-name designers participated with their new collections.

    In his opening speech, Anatol Huraw, deputy head of state light industry conglomerate Bellehpram, greeted participants on the occasion of the “landmark event in the life of the republic” and wished them a success.

    Lyubow Manulik, head of the Belarusian Fashion Center, noted: “It is not just a festival but a designer’s step to show us and customers the attractiveness of this fascinating Belarusian material.”

    The program of the Fashion Week features a workshop on latest fashion trends for fashion experts, Ms. Manulik noted.

    The Week will wrap up with a “VIP show” that will feature a collection by a professional French designer with Belarusian roots.

    Belarus’ conference to discuss dialogue between Christianity and Judaism

    From: BelTA
    The first international research conference “Christian- Judaic dialogue: religious values as the basis for respect in the civil society amid the global economic crisis” will be held in the Johannes Rau International Educational Center of Minsk on 9-11 November, BelTA learnt from the St. Methodius and Cyril Christian Educational Center which is among the major organizers of the forum.

    The opening of the conference is timed to the International Day Against Fascism, Racism and Anti-Semitism. The Christian part of the participants will be represented by Eastern Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant believers from Belarus, Vatican, Russia, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, US and Canada, the Judaic side will be represented by followers of various trends of Judaism from Belarus, Ukraine and Israel.

    The participants of the forum will discuss the relations between Christianity and Judaism in the globalization era. The conference will be concluded by a roundtable titled “How can our traditions mutually enrich each other?”

    In line with the programme European Bridges the Belarusian State Philharmonic Society will perform Christian and Judaic canticles and music of famous Christian and Jewish composers.
    The conference is held upon the benediction of Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk, Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus with the help of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Apostolic Nunciature in Belarus, the OSCE Office, the Israeli Embassy, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (Germany) and other organizations.

    Belarusian Language and Culture Center to open in Kiev

    A Belarusian Language and Culture Center will open at the Philology Institute of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kiev on 5 November. Attending the opening ceremony will be Belarusian Education Minister Alexander Radkov, BelTA learnt from the Belarusian Embassy in Kiev.

    The Ukrainian side expressed interest in expanding the opportunities of studying the national languages on a mutually advantageous basis. Specialists in philology of the Belarusian Education Ministry and Philology Institute of the Taras Shevchenko National University held consultations in Kiev.

    The Belarusian language will be taught at the Russian language department or the Slavic studies department of the university. The university does not rule out setting up a special Belarusian language and literature department.

    The agreement between the Belarusian Education Ministry and the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kiev is aimed at strengthening the cultural cooperation between the two countries. It envisages support for the inclusion of the Belarusian language in curricula of other Ukrainian universities.

  • Economics...

    Belarus hopes to resume sugar export to Ukraine in 2010

    From: BelTA
    Belarus hopes to resume the export of sugar to Ukraine in 2010, Chairman of the Belgospishcheprom Concern Ivan Danchenko told media on 6 November.

    “This year Belarus has exported 61,000 tons of sugar to Ukraine. At present we are not working on the market of that country as Ukraine has launched its own production of sugar. We hope, however, we will be able to resume sugar exports next year,” Ivan Danchenko said.

    According to him, next year Ukraine is expected to face a sugar deficit of 700,000-800,000 tons. “We believe we will be able to come to the Ukrainian market as soon as the deficit starts growing. It will happen, approximately, in March 2010,” he added.

    In January-October 2009 the sugar companies of Belarus exported 366,000 tons of sugar, 126.1% to the same period last year, Ivan Danchenko said. This year Russia is expected to import 156,000 tons of the Belarusian sugar. “In January-October 2009 we delivered 136,000 tons of sugar to the Russian market. The rest will be supplied according to the schedule,” he said. Belarus exports sugar to Latvia, Poland, Moldova, Tajikistan, the USA and other countries.

    In 2010 Belarus plans to increase the production of pre-packed sugar. “Russia accounts for 20% of Belarus sugar export. We are planning to increase this index to 50%,” Ivan Danchenko said.

    Belarus plans to export 400,000 tons of sugar this year. The export of sugar totaled 330,000-340,000 tons in 2008.

    Belarus plans to establish 23 new assembly facilities abroad in 2009

    Belarus plans to establish twenty-three new assembly facilities abroad by the end of 2009, Deputy Economy Minister of Belarus Andrei Tur said at the 12th Minsk Forum on 5 November.

    Andrei Tur said that amid the global crisis Belarus have been taking measures both to boost the export and to integrate its economy into the global market. These processes include the establishment of assembly facilities in the countries importing Belarusian goods.

    Last year the companies subordinate to the Industry Ministry established thirty-six new assembly facilities in Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, China, Egypt, Serbia, Ethiopia, Latvia, and Lithuania. “We are planning to establish twenty-three more assembly facilities in India, Iran, Venezuela, Syria, Libya, and Sudan till the end of the year” said Andrei Tur. He said also that Belarus is currently constructing a BelAZ assembly enterprise in Venezuela with a capacity of 10,000 tractors and 5,000 trucks.

    Andrei Tur said that Belarusian companies are currently renewing their main assets, which required big investment import to Belarus. “We are preparing for the future, when the foreign markets “wake up” to fill them with our goods.

    He also added that Belarus is working to improve its legislature to create an environment attractive for investors.

    19 joint-stock companies open in Belarus in 2009

    There have been set up 19 open joint-stock companies in Belarus in 2009, Director of the State Property Fund of the State Property Committee Natalia Zhernosek told media on 6 November.

    “We are going in line with the privatization plans for 2009,” Natalia Zhernosek said. Twenty-two out of 175 companies scheduled for corporization in 2009 have been transformed and 19 open joint-stock companies have been set up on their basis. Besides, a decision has been adopted to sell the Bobruisk Fiberboard Plant.

    Six president’s decisions have been taken to sell state shares. Auctions and sales in November are likely to bring good results.

    The privatization of municipal companies is underway as well. 128 companies are planned to be transformed into open joint-stock companies this year. Nine joint-stock companies have been set up so far, two more have been sold.

    Nearly 700 facilities have been commercialized. About 200 facilities have been sold for one basic amount. These transactions have brought more than Br2 billion into the national budget and more than Br8 billion to the local budgets.

    A possibility to set up an open joint-stock company with a Russian investor at the Voskhod Furniture Factory in the village of Ostroshitski Gorodok has been considered this week. “It is a small company. But every company, whether it is small or big, is every important for the economy,” Natalia Zhernosek said. The company will provide 170 new jobs.

    According to her, the negotiations with investors interested in the companies of the petrochemical industry of Belarus will continue. “Negotiations are currently held with Belshina, Grodno Azot, the Gomel Chemical Plant,” she said.

    In her words, during the crisis an owner hesitates how to sell and avoid selling too cheap as the prices are going down. With a strong interest among investors, one should be also guided by a size of the income that can be earned in a deal, Natalia Zhernosek summarized.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    Belarus celebrates anniversary of Bolshevik Revolution

    From: RIA Novosti
    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko congratulated the country on the 82nd anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution on Saturday.

    "Belarus respects this momentous date," the president said.

    The former Soviet republic continues to mark the anniversary of the 1917 Revolution that brought Vladimir Lenin to power and established over seven decades of communist rule in Russia and the Soviet Union.

    While November 7 is no longer a national holiday in Russia, having been replaced by the November 4 People's Unity Day in 2005, Belarus continues to mark the event with a public holiday when it falls on a working day.

    Belarus has maintained many of the symbols and attributes of the former U.S.S.R., including the KGB security services and the Red Star on its national emblem.

    Belarus reports seven swine flu deaths

    From: RIA Novosti
    The Belarusian Health Ministry said seven people have died from swine flu in the country, Belta news agency reported.

    "Over the past two weeks, 19 people have died in Belarus from acute pneumonia, and seven of them were confirmed to have the swine flu virus," the country's chief sanitary official, Valentina Kachan, said.

    The reported deaths were the first registered from swine flu in the country.

    Kachan said laboratory tests had confirmed that 85 people were infected with A/H1N1 across the country, adding that 31 of them were in hospitals.

    On Sunday, 59 swine flu infections were reported in the ex-Soviet republic.

    The chief doctor said a seasonal growth of acute respiratory viral infections had been registered in Belarus. She said the number of infections has risen by almost 70% in the country this year as compared to the previous year, with 2,154 cases of pneumonia.

    Kachan said hospitals across the country had been provided with necessary medicines, adding more than one million packs of antiviral agents would be provided to pharmacies within a month.

    Meanwhile, a swine flu epidemic was declared in neighboring Ukraine where 17 swine flu cases have been confirmed, with three of them fatal.

    A total of 81 people were reported to have died of influenza-like diseases in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Health Ministry said on Monday some 255,000 flu cases had been registered across the country.

    Fourteen people have died from swine flu in Russia, and 3,122 other cases have been confirmed across the country as of Tuesday.

    According to the World Health Organization, more than 5,700 people have died from swine flu worldwide, and the total number of officially confirmed cases has exceeded 440,000, as of October 25.

    Agritechnica 09: Belarus diesel-electric tractor generates 172kW of DC power

    From: FWI
    The plan is to use that power to run fertiliser spreaders, sprayers and anything else that needs turning, as well as spinning on-board items like compressors and air-conditioning units
    It's not often that the star of the Agritechnica show has a Belarus badge on it, but this year that's potentially the case.

    The ex-Soviet, now Belarussian, tractor maker has a diesel-electric tractor on show. It's not the first of its type, because Deere grabbed that slot with its E-Premium tractor.

    But whereas the Deere produces 20kW of power, the 295hp Belarus puts out an amazing 172kW of DC electricity. That power, among other things, is used to run the front pto, so for the first time pto revs can be entirely independent of engine revs.

    The plan, as with the Deere, is to use that power to run fertiliser spreaders, sprayers and anything else that needs turning, as well as spinning on-board items like compressors and air-conditioning units.

    At this early stage of the show we don't have any more details on this extraordinary tractor, but we'll bring them to you as soon as we can.

    Two “landmark” privatization bills drawn up in Belarus, official says

    From: Navany
    Two “landmark” privatization bills have been drawn up in Belarus, Natallya Zharnasek, head of the State Property Committee’s State Property Fund, told reporters in Minsk on November 6.

    One of the bills is a new version of the Privatization Law, she said, noting that the other legislation would govern government-owned property.

    According to Ms. Zharnasek, the bills are aimed at “optimizing” the list of property that may not be sold into private hands.

    They would exclude Belarusian Railroads and main oil pipelines from the list.

    “Work is already under way to reorganize Belarusian Railroads’ companies, excluding enterprises that are in charge for rail safety,” Ms. Zharnasek said. “Two operators of oil pipelines – Navapolatsk-based oil transportation company Druzhba and Homyeltransnafta Druzhba –are preparing for privatization.”

  • From the Opposition...

    Gryzlov: Belarus close to recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia

    From: Charter '97
    Russia welcomes plans of official Minsk to consider recognition of independent Georgian regions.

    Boris Gryzlov, the head of the State Duma and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Belarusian–Russian “union”, hopes that formation of a working group in the Belarusian “parliament” on preparation for consideration of South Ossetia and Abkhazia’s requests on recognition will “speed up our Belarusian colleagues to make the necessary decision” on the issue.

    As the press service of Duma’s fraction “United Russia” reports, Gryzlov said this on Wednesday November 6 commenting the decision of Minsk.

    “Dwellers of the two state are wating for this decision,” the speaker emphasized. “If our Belarusian colleagues need any help of the members of the State Duma, we are ready to render aid,” he promised.

    We remind that on Thursday November 5, the Belarusian “parliament” adopted a decision on creation of a working group in the Council of the “house of representatives” to prepare and consider the requests of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on recognition of the two republics.

    Head of Lukashenka’s Administration Uladzimir Makei said during the Minsk Forum on November 4 that the Belarusian parliament would consider a question of recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia next week.

    “The parliament will start considering an issue on recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia next week,” Makei said.

    Hans-Dieter Lucas, the special envoy for Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, said at the 12th Minsk Forum on November 5 that possible recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia would contradict the spirit of cooperation and would hardly facilitate ties in the framework of the Eastern Partnership programme.

    The representative of the German Foreign Office said the EU position on the issue was “clear”, as independence of the regions hadn’t been recognized by any of the EU member states.

    Andrei Pachobut: ‘The authorities use the police and the KGB to make people refuse from membership in the Union of Poles. They are testing the reaction of the West.’

    From: Viasna
    In November the EU will consider the issue on re-imposing the sanctions against the Belarusian authorities. One of the conditions put to the official Minsk by the international community is securing the rights and freedoms of the Belarusian citizens belonging to national minorities. This condition was introduced on the initiative of Poland and is a result of the complicated situation around the Union of Poles in Belarus, headed by Anzhalika Borys.

    Andrei Pachobut, head of the main council of the Union of Poland in disgrace, journalist, correspondent of the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, agreed to answer our questions.

    -Andrei, do you see any changes in the situation of your Union of Poles on the eve of the EU decision on re-imposing the sanctions?

    - The situation of the Union of Poles hasn’t changed. If we speak about the periodization of the attitude of the Belarusian authorities to the Polish national minority, it’s worth noting a very critical phase in 2005-2006. People were arrested and Polish houses were seized by the riot police who took away our activists and put there representatives of the pro-governmental Union of Poles, the people who agreed to collaborate with the Belarusian authorities.

    Later, in 2007 there was another situation: the Belarusian authorities knew that the independent Union of Poles continued existing as an unregistered organization and supposedly agreed to it. Meanwhile, when Lukashenka’s dialogue with the West started, there were some concessions in the sphere of political rights – release of the political prisoners, return of two newspapers to the distribution net monopolized by the state. This liberalization didn’t concern the Union of Poles in any way.

    This year, during the 7th assembly of our Union there was a very brutal wave of pressurization, comparable to 2005. People were summonsed to the ideological departments of executive committees and KGB offices. Those who were heading for the assembly were detained by the police. There weren’t any arrests of the leaders, as there were many journalists and TV cameras at the assembly and the authorities didn’t dare to disperse or hinder it. Another surge occurred in September, during the assembly of the pro-governmental Union of Poles. On its eve the authorities pressurized members of our organization with the aim to make them participate in the assembly. Such facts were registered and the Polish side was informed about them. We hoped that after two such peak events as these assemblies the situation would return to the state of virtual quietness, like it used to be in 2007. Pitifully enough, this didn’t happen.

    - What is happening now?

    - At present we observe a severe pressurization of members of our Union in Ivianiets. The authorities are testing the reaction of the West on the events. They are trying to appropriate the Polish House owned by the Union of Poles. However, they cannot take the riot police there to take our people out and their ones in (in 2005-2006 the police kept duty at the office of the Union of Poles in Hrodna guarding the pro-governmental administration). They cannot apply open repressions now. Nevertheless, they pressurize us through KGB, the police and the State Control Committee trying to influence our activists. A number of check-ups on anonymous letters concerning alleged violations of the financial discipline are being held. These check-ups are used to make the people refuse from participation in our Union or joining the pro-governmental one.

    Bear in mind that our organization has always been non-political. Most of our activists are villagers and have never wanted to deal with politics. There were even those who voted for Lukashenka and it was a real shock for them that the Belarusian authorities so radically attacked the organization without any reasons – just because some officials had phobias.

    - What problems do the Belarusian Poles mainly face with?

    - The main problem is the education in the Polish language. The decrease of interest to learning Polish has been observed in schools and other state educational establishments for a long time already. The authorities explain it with the absence of the public interest. In fact, there are cases when people file applications for letting their children learn the Polish language as a school subject. The authorities don’t provide such opportunity and reduce it all to extracurricular classes once a week. Of course, the level of the knowledge received as a result of such study is minimal. For instance, in the beginning of this year such situation could be observed in Indura, a small village not far from Hrodna. There were 12 such applications there. The school administration talked with the parents and said that the education would take place at the expense of the Russian language, which is quite bad as there are no perspectives, etc. Only six applications were left after this talk. They were ignored. As a result the study of the Polish language was introduced as an extracurriculum classes. There are many such cases on the territory of Belarus, especially in Hrodna oblast.

    On the other hand, the arguments of the Belarusian authorities about the absence of interest to learning the Polish language can be disproved by the fact that during the recent years one could observe the growth of the demand for the Polish language classes in the commercial educational establishments. We see youth and older people come to commercial courses, showing their readiness to pay money for learning Polish. It is evident that the Belarusian authorities are not interested in giving the Poles who are citizens of the Republic of Belarus the opportunity to learn their mother-tongue, and are trying to restrict their rights in this respect.

    Moreover, the Union of Poles is the largest Polish organization in Belarus and its illegal status considerably limits the cultural rights of the Belarusian Poles and the right to distribute information in mother-tongue. Our editions Magazyn Polski and Glos znad Niemna are illegal and are distributed illegally. When the police come across our magazine, it is always confiscated. We consider it as the main problem of the Polish majority in Belarus.

    - What is your personal position concerning the sanctions against the Belarusian authorities?

    - The situation in Belarus is quite complex. One can see that the Belarusian authorities start counting with anyone only if they face a stark position. If the formulations are blurred, they readily promise anything, but never keep the promises. That’s why I think one needs to have a principled position towards the Belarusian authorities. It doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be any talks. But only strong policy, based on certain values towards Aliaksandr Lukashenka can bring real results.

  • Russia...

    Russia criticizes Poland's call for US troops

    From: AP
    Russia's foreign minister said Thursday he was surprised by Poland's call for more U.S. troops on Polish soil in response to Moscow's assertiveness, a news agency reported.

    RIA Novosti quoted minister Sergei Lavrov as saying that the request by his Polish counterpart, Radek Sikorski, contradicted Moscow's and Warsaw's understanding of security issues in Europe.

    "If he did say that, it makes me deeply astonished," Lavrov said.

    Sikorski said Wednesday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington that "we need some strategic reassurance," and that the U.S. could provide it by sending more than the six American troops it now has based in Poland. The minister said that need became clear when Russia and Belarus conducted a military exercise with hundreds of tanks near Poland's border last month.

    Sikorski said that when Poland joined NATO 10 years ago, Russia was assured that no substantial NATO forces would be sent to the region. But, the minister said, the security situation has since changed.

    Poland also raised concerns about its security when the Obama administration decided in September to scrap a plan to deploy long-range missile interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic.

    Yushchenko to blame for Russia-Ukraine spat: Medvedev

    From: AFP
    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Saturday that his "Russophobe" Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yushchenko was the sole reason for the decline in relations between the two countries.

    Everything Yushchenko had done in recent years had worked to damage traditional links between Russia and Ukraine, Medvedev said.

    "We have a very difficult relationship with Ukraine, but this is not a dispute between the two societies," Medvedev said in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel.

    "To be quite honest, all the controversy and all the problems are related to one person: the current president of Ukraine," he said.

    "He is under the influence of Russophobe ideas. Everything he has done in recent years has damaged the traditional links between Ukraine and Russia."

    The comments are the latest rebuke Medvedev has delivered to the Ukrainian leader.

    In August Medvedev attacked what he called Ukraine's "anti-Russian" attitude and announced Moscow would not be sending a new ambassador to Kiev because of Yushchenko's policies.

    Russia-Ukraine relations have deteriorated since Yushchenko's election in 2005 in the wake of the Orange Revolution that ousted the old pro-Moscow elite in Ukraine.

    Yushchenko set his country on a course towards membership of NATO and the European Union that angered Russia.

    Disputes over Ukrainian payments for Russian gas have also soured relations, and last week Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned that European gas supplies could be interrupted if Ukraine failed to pay.

    Medvedev said he hoped "more pragmatic forces would take the reins of power" after Ukraine's presidential election, planned for January.

    Yushchenko is standing in the election but has little chance of victory, according to opinion polls.

    For Russia’s Communists, Ousting Putin Is a Priority

    From: New York Times
    Along with the perennial calls for “land for farmers” and “factories for workers,” Communists who marched in Moscow on the Saturday anniversary of the 1917 revolution offered a slogan of more recent vintage: “Russia without Putin.”

    As the Nov. 7 holiday approached, leaders of Russia’s Communist Party — with 13 percent of the electorate the country’s largest opposition faction — have made it clear that they prefer President Dmitri A. Medvedev to his predecessor, and the current prime minister, Vladimir V. Putin.

    Speaking at the party’s annual plenum last week, the party’s president, Gennady A. Zyuganov, said the so-called tandem government of Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev was collapsing.

    He said opposition politicians “are eager to support the president if he ever decides to go on a real but not declarative struggle for those principles that he stands for.”

    Mr. Putin remains Russia’s most popular politician, with Mr. Medvedev trailing him by around 10 points in most polls. Approval ratings for both leaders dipped last month amid widespread allegations of fraud in local elections; on Oct. 25, the Public Opinion Foundation reported that Mr. Putin’s trust rating fell to 66 percent from 72 percent, the lowest point since he became prime minister, though he regained four points of that loss last week.

    Sergei A. Markov, a State Duma deputy with the governing United Russia Party, said opposition forces had long sought to drive a wedge between the leaders “in order to weaken the system and create more room for themselves.”

    “In this tactic there is a seed of reason,” he said. “This is the common position of the opposition. I personally think Zyuganov is under the influence of the more radical wing, which calls itself liberal.”

    Frustration with Mr. Putin’s government was a common refrain at Saturday’s Communist marches, which drew some 150,000 across Russia, according to the Interfax news service. Demonstrators’ posters aired grievances about mortgage fraud, unemployment and police corruption; most of those interviewed had little to say about Mr. Medvedev.

    “We consider Medvedev and Putin to be parts of one whole,” said Yevgeny I. Kopyshev, 48, who joined the march in Moscow. “However, we prefer to cultivate our leaders rather than confronting them. That is why, when Medvedev declared priorities that were so close to ours, we could not fail to appreciate it.”

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Big Poland is watching them

    From: RT

    A scandal is gathering steam in Poland after it was revealed security services illegally wiretap journalists and politicians. Critics say the extent of bugging in the country is an attack on human rights.

    Wiretapping is making it tougher to be an investigative reporter in Poland. A few years ago, a journalist from the newspaper Wyborcza, Woiceijh Czuchnowski, found himself in the middle of a wiretapping scandal. One of his contacts was eavesdropped on by the Security Services and they also placed a bug on Woicejh’s phone.

    Woiceijh Czuchnowski told RT that, “Now most of our informants are now refusing to talk on the phone. Not only secret informers, but just people who have valuable information, but prefer to keep a low profile. They’re scared, because of all the wire-tapping hysteria.”

    Woiciech's case isn't isolated. The Reczpospolita newspaper claims one of its reporters – along with two other journalists – have had their phones intercepted by the police, without the proper authorization.

    "If my conversations were listened to without proper court permission, if the tap was illegal, then my fundamental rights have been broken," Bogdan Rymanovski, a TVN reporter, claims.

    One of the targeted journalists is suspected of blackmailing his contacts, but two others were believed to be absolutely innocent and thus had no legal right to be bugged.

    In Poland, security services must first obtain permission for wire-tapping from a court. But the head of the Polish domestic security agency has admitted this system seldom works properly.

    “Courts usually grant these concerns post factum. In almost 100 percent of cases,” Adam Bodnar, from the Helsinki Human Rights Foundation, says “They are not perfectly regulated and there’s a great risk to human rights. Every 2-3 months we have such affairs involving Special Services.”

    According to Polish law, unless recorded conversations are to be used as evidence they must be destroyed. In this case they weren’t, and could’ve been used for other purposes.

    Now Prime Minister Donald Tusk has ordered checks on the Polish security services.

    Newspapers in Poland are speculating whether this could lead to the intelligence head’s early retirement.

    The opposition says both men must go for what they call breaching the freedom of the press.

    This latest wire-tapping case has created a political storm in Poland, even forcing the prime minister’s intervention. But human rights activists fear that, until eavesdropping is officially regulated in Poland, no journalist can work freely without being watched.

    Women traffickers prey on jobless in Poland

    From: The News
    Four people have been detained in northern Poland and charged with human trafficking and forcing women to work as prostitutes.

    A dozen Polish women, who applied for a cleaning job in Germany, have been sold to escort agencies by a human trafficking ring from northern Poland.

    Police detained two women and two men who recruited young women in financial straits, promising to give them employment in Germany.

    As soon as they crossed the Polish border, they took away their IDs, saying they will arrange the formalities themselves. The unsuspecting women were then placed in escort agencies and forced to work as prostitutes.

    “The women were intimidated and kept in a closely guarded house,” Jan Kosciuk, spokesman for police in northern Poland said. What made matters worse, they did not speak German.

    The detained persons, aged from 27 to 41, face from 3 to 15 years in prison.

    Women trafficking for sex is a thriving business in Europe, valued at 7 to 13 billion dollars. Over the past 10 years its profits rose by an estimated 400 percent. According to the United Nations, about half a million women in Europe are forced to work as prostitutes but the real figure may be much higher.

    Criminal turns up on talent show

    From: The News
    The judges were not the only ones to spot talent on a popular TV show - so did the police.

    It was hardly the kind of career that a 24 year old man from Bytom, southern Poland, had in mind when he decided to appear on the popular Poland’s Got Talent television show.

    His singing did not impress the jury but his performance caught the eye of …. the police.

    “A few weeks ago, one of our police officers watched a television show and to his surprise he saw a wanted criminal, who has been in hiding since September last year,” says a spokesman for the Bytom police force Adam Jakubiak. The man was wanted for robbery, theft and damage of property.

    The watchful policeman who recognized the criminal aspiring to become a pop star received a cash prize from his superiors.

  • Sport...

    BATE wins a point in Athens

    From: BelTA
    Belarusian titleholder BATE Borisov ended their scheduled Europa League match against AEK (Greece) in a 2-2 draw in Athens on 5 November.

    BATE came from behind after AEK opened the score on 15th second. Sergei Krivets assisted Vitlaly Rodionov and BATE’s striker scored the equalizer on 17th minute. Eight minutes later Alexander Volodko took the advantage of AEK goalkeeper’s lapse and netted the ball with a long range shot. On 37th minute Alexander Yurevich conceded a foul near BATE’s penalty box and Gustavo Manduca headed the ball into Veremko’s net after a set-piece free kick.

    In the second half AEK fully controlled the game; they hit the post and the cross bar a couple of times. BATE was left down to ten men after Igor Shytau was sent off. But owing to Sergei Veremko, Belarusian club managed to win a point.

    BATE played in the following lineup: Veremko, Bordachev, Yurevich, Sosnovski Shytau, Volodko, Likhtarovich, Krivets, (Alumona), Nekhaychik (Pavlov), Rodionov, Skavysh (Radzkou).

    Everton lost to Benfica (0-2) in another Group I match on 5 November.

    The current standings in Group I are the following: Benfica has 9 points, Everton - 6, both BATE and AEK have 4.

    BATE plays Benfica in Minsk in the next Europa League game. Everton goes to AEK.

    Belarus beats Austria at Polesie Cup

    Polesie Cup started in Bobruisk and Zhlobin on 5 November. Belarus won the opener against Austria.

    The final score was 4-2 (1-0, 3-1, 0-1).

    Belarusian team is led by Andrei Gusov, who was appointed acting head coach after Glen Hanlon’s resignation.

    The participants of Polesie Cup are drawn into two groups. Belarus, Austria and Denmark play in Group A in Bobruisk. Members of Group B (Norway, France, Polesie) play in Zhlobin.

    Polesie team consists of players of Shinnik and Metallurg hockey clubs together with Belarusians who were not included in the national team. It is led by Metallurg’s head coach Evgeny Lebedev.

    Polesie lost to France (2-3) on 5 November.

    Belarus loses to Canada West in World Junior A Challenge quatefinals

    Belarus U-20 ice hockey team lost its quarterfinal match against Canada west at World Junior A Challenge in Summerside, Canada on 5 November.

    The final score was 3-7. Malinouski, Fomin, and Karolik scored for Belarus. Aliaksandr Fomin was recognized as Belarus’ Man of the Match.

    Sweden lost to the USA in another quarterfinal.

    Belarus will play Sweden in the 5th place match on 7 November.

    Belarus was fifth at the World Junior A Challenge in 2007, and fourth in 2008.

  • Endnote...

    SPECIAL REPORT-In eastern Europe, people pine for socialism

    From: Foxyard/Reuters
    Russians supporting the Communists and with a banner of Engels, Marx and Lenin marched in Moscow on Saturday to commemorate the anniversary of the 1917 Russian Revolution.
    In the dense forests of the idyllic Danube island of Persin, home to the endangered sea eagle and the pygmy cormorant, lie the ghastly remains of a communist-era death camp.

    Hundreds "enemies of the regime" perished from beatings, malnutrition and exhaustion in 1949-59 in Bulgaria's Belene concentration camp, where dead bodies were fed to pigs.

    Twenty years after the fall of communism, Belene is largely forgotten -- only a small marble plaque tells its horrific story. And nostalgia for the past is growing in the small Balkan country and across the former Soviet bloc.

    Capitalism's failure to lift living standards, impose the rule of law and tame flourishing corruption and nepotism have given way to fond memories of the times when the jobless rate was zero, food was cheap and social safety was high.

    "(The bad) things have been forgotten," said Rumen Petkov, 42, a former guard now clerk at the only prison still functioning on the Persin island.

    "The nostalgia is palpable, particularly among the elderly," he said, in front of the crumbling buildings of another old jail opened on the site after the camp was shut in 1959. The communists imprisoned dozens of ethnic Turks here in the 1980s when they refused to change their names to Bulgarian.

    Some young people in the impoverished town of Belene, linked to the island with a pontoon bridge, also reminisce: "We lived better in the past," said Anelia Beeva, 31.

    "We went on holidays to the coast and the mountains, there were plenty of clothes, shoes, food. And now the biggest chunk of our incomes is spent on food. People with university degrees are unemployed and many go abroad."

    In Russia, several Soviet-themed restaurants have opened in Moscow in recent years: some hold nostalgia nights where young people dress up as pioneers -- the Soviet answer to the boy scouts and girl guides -- and dance to communist classics.

    Soviet Champagne and Red October Chocolates remain favourites for birthday celebrations. "USSR" T-shirts and baseball caps can be seen across the country in summer.

    While there is scant real desire for old regimes to be restored, analysts say apathy is a vital outcome.

    "The big damage of the that it dries out the energy for meaningful change," wrote Bulgarian sociologist Vladimir Shopov in the online portal BG History.


    Across former communist eastern Europe, disenchantment with democracy is widespread and pollsters say mistrust of the elites who made people citizens of the European Union is staggering.

    A September regional poll by U.S. Pew research centre showed support for democracy and capitalism has seen the biggest fall in Ukraine, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Hungary.

    The poll showed 30 percent of Ukrainians approved of the change to democracy in 2009, down from 72 percent in 1991. In Bulgaria and Lithuania the slide was to just over half the population from nearer three-quarters in 1991.

    Surveys by U.S.-based human rights group Freedom House show backsliding or stagnation in corruption, governance, independent media and civil society in the new EU-member states.

    The global economic crisis, which has wounded the region and put an end to six or seven years of growth, is now challenging the remedy of neoliberal capitalism prescribed by the West.

    Hopes of catching up with the wealthy Western neighbours have been replaced by a sense of injustice because of a widening gap between the rich and the poor.

    In Hungary, one of the countries worst hit by economic downturn, 70 percent of those who were already adults in 1989 say they were disappointed with the results of the regime change, an October survey by pollster Szonda Ipsos showed.

    People in the former Yugoslav countries, scarred by the ethnic wars from the 1990s and still outside the EU, are nostalgic for the socialist era of Josip Broz Tito when, unlike now, they travelled across Europe without visa.

    "Everything was better then. There was no street crime, jobs were safe and salaries were enough for decent living," said Belgrade pensioner Koviljka Markovic, 70. "Today I can hardly survive with my pension of 250 euros ($370 a month)."


    In Bulgaria, the 33-year rule of the late dictator Todor Zhivkov begins to seem a golden era to some in comparison with the raging corruption and crime that followed his demise.

    Over 60 percent say they lived better in the past, even though shopping queues were routine, social connections were the only way to obtain more valuable goods, jeans and Coca Cola were off-limits and it took up to 10 years' waiting to buy a car.

    "For part of the Bulgarians (social) security turned out to be more precious than freedom," wrote historians Andrei Pantev and Bozhidar Gavrilov in a book on the 100 most influential people in the Balkan country's history.

    Nearly three years after joining the EU, Bulgaria's average monthly salary of about 300 euros and pension of about 80 euros remain the lowest in the club. Incomes in the more affluent Poland and the Czech Republic, which joined the bloc in 2004, are also still a fraction of those in western Europe.

    A 2008 global survey by Gallup ranked Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania among the 10 most discontented countries in the world.

    "Our parents' generation was much more satisfied with what they had. Everybody just wants more of everything these days," said Zsofia Kis, a 23-year old student in Budapest, referring to the way communist regimes artifically held down unemployment.


    After two decades of patchy, painful reforms, the majority of people refuse to make more sacrifices, as would be needed to complete a revamp of the economy and the judiciary.

    Demoralisation and heightened popularity for political parties promising "a firm hand" are other consequences.

    Not without reason.

    Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent, described the fall of the Soviet Union as the "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century".

    Kremlin critics have accused the authorities of a creeping rehabilitation of the Soviet Union to justify their clampdowns on the media and opposition parties.

    "There is an idealisation of the Soviet past," said Nikita Petrov, an historian from the Memorial human rights group. "It's a conscious policy. They are trying to show the Soviet authorities looking decent and attractive to today's generation."

    In Bulgaria, oligarchs who control entire sectors of the economy have emerged from the former communist party's ranks and its feared secret services.

    The names of corrupt politicians and crime bosses are an open secret, but Bulgaria has not convicted a single senior official of graft and has jailed only one gang boss since 1989. No one has been convicted for the communist repressions.

    Some of the most popular words among ordinary Bulgarians are "dalavera", a Turkish word meaning fraud, "mutri", a nickname for ugly mafiosi and "mente", which means counterfeit products.

    "People are losing faith that one can achieve success in an honest, decent way. Success is totally criminalised," said Boriana Dimitrova of Bulgarian polling agency Alpha Research.