Our weekly digest of articles about emerging Europe published elsewhere this week, all of which caught our eye and all of which are well worth your time. Listing them here, however, does not necessarily mean that we agree with every word, nor do they necessarily reflect Emerging Europe’s editorial policy.
Estonia’s techies fear the far right
Estonia’s reputation as a leading European startup hub is facing a new challenge: domestic political turmoil. Since it broke free of the collapsing Soviet Union in 1991, the small Baltic state has carved out a niche for itself as a business-friendly, tech-savvy base for a series of billion-dollar tech companies, from communications platform Skype to money mover TransferWise. But recent scandals involving a far-right governing party — under father-and-son duo Mart and Martin Helme — have shaken confidence in the country’s leadership, prompting some to question whether Estonia’s reputation as a leading tech nation could be at risk.
Inside the Brussels lockdown sex party
The 29-year-old doctoral student who hosted a Brussels orgy that made headlines around the world has spoken out in defense of his lockdown-busting sex party. The night out led to the resignation of Hungary’s prominent anti-LGBTQ politician József Szájer, who tried to escape through a window onto the roof when police burst in, but the host insisted that he took all necessary safety precautions.
Poland’s Catholics: Losing faith in their church
During the five years in which the Law and Justice (PiS) party has governed in Poland, the lines between politics and religion have become, to put it mildly, blurred. In a sermon last week, for example, the archbishop of Kraków, Marek Jędraszewski, offered episcopal backing for the government’s refusal to sign off on the European Union’s Covid recovery fund.
Slovenia’s dance with the superpowers
As relations between the US and China remain tense, Slovenia shows the dangers smaller nations face of getting caught underfoot as the superpowers wrestle. Although the country’s economic ties to China grew more intensely than those to the US in recent years, Ljubljana this summer gave up a more neutral geopolitical stance by renewing a political and security partnership with the US. Economic relations with China have since appeared to go into limbo.
No, Kosovo is not a precedent for Nagorno-Karabakh
When major Western powers supported Kosovo’s independence bid, they unequivocally warned that Kosovo was sui generis — a one-time deal, a special case under international law that cannot be used under any circumstances as a precedent for other situations. However, in retrospect, it did not stop separatists from appealing to the Kosovo case whenever it seemed opportune to them.
Stuck in the Russian Web
The Kremlin’s idea of Russian-Serbian solidarity is that Belgrade will not do anything that Moscow does not approve of. Russia is not interested in a definitive solution to the Serbian-Kosovo issue, as it fears that as a result it would lose its position in the Balkans as the dominant force most suited to resolving conflict situations. Hence, Russia is actively trying to impede Serbia’s growing relationship with Western Europe every step of the way.
How Europe can bypass Poland and Hungary’s vetoes
European partners should prepare for bypass surgery, if necessary, to overcome the blockage by Hungary and Poland of the EU’s urgently needed Covid-19 recovery package. Budapest and Warsaw are threatening to veto the bloc’s 1.8 trillion euros long-term budget and coronavirus recovery fund in a cynical attempt to shield themselves from seeing payments linked to respect for the rule of law.
All the must-see indie films from Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival
Films from across Eastern Europe and Central Asia have swept the board at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. One of the most eagerly awaited rendez-vous in the indie film calendar, the Estonian film festival, announced the winners of its 24th edition on Sunday, November 29. The top films were selected by seven juries in a competition of more than 20 international titles. Fear, by Bulgarian director Ivaylo Hristov — the story of an unemployed teacher in an Bulgarian border village who welcomes an illegal immigrant into her home — bagged the Grand Prix for the Best Film.
Silent victims: The hidden Romanian women exploited in the UK sex trade
Three weeks ago, police entered a brothel in south-east England after receiving intelligence about criminal activity there. Inside, they found eight Romanian women wearing face shields and masks, and laminated Covid-19 health and safety sheets on the wall. An industrial-size bottle of hand sanitiser stood by the front door.
Turkmenistan: The Germans are coming!
Turkmenistan likes German doctors. The late President Saparmurat Niyazov was regularly visited by a team of Munich physicians. After performing a heart operation on Niyazov in the late 1990s or thereabouts, Dr Hans Meissner made countless follow-up visits to Ashgabat, and was doubtlessly well remunerated for his troubles.
How Borscht is causing a spat between Russia and Ukraine
Borscht, a traditional beetroot and cabbage soup is causing controversy in Eastern Europe. Its name is, in many places, synonymous with Russian soup, but a Ukrainian chef is fighting to get it recognised as part of his country’s cultural heritage. “In many shops in Turkey, Slovenia, America, you can find canned borscht where it says ‘Russian soup’,” says Levgen Klopotenko who has a renowned Ukrainian restaurant in central Kyiv.
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