Kaczynski era near end in Poland
Last Monday, the Polish Central Election Commission (CEC) published the official presidential election results after the first round. The liberal Bronislav Komorowski, who is the temporary head of the state, and the conservative Jaroslaw Kaczynski, twin brother of President Lech Kaczynski, who perished in a plane crash with his wife and 95 state officials in Russia two months earlier, made it to the second round. Komorowski lead with 41.54 per cent of the votes, while Kaczynski received 36.46 per cent. They will compete in the second round on the 4th of July. According to the CEC, the turnout was 54.94 per cent, which is much higher than five years ago. Surveys show that in the second round 66.5 per cent of the electorate will be ready to give the vote to Komorowski, while 30 per cent would vote for Kaczynski, who served as Prime Minister from July 2006 to November 2007. It was his brother as president who swore him in for that post.
Russian gas unreliable again
Europe felt the pinch once more last Monday as Russia again cut supplies of gas over a payment dispute with one of its transit countries. Over the week Gazprom cut supplies to Belarus by 60 per cent, while at the same time accusing the former Soviet state of siphoning off 20 per cent of gas destined for Europe. A similar scenario has played out between Russia and Ukraine twice in recent years over the country’s unpaid debts to Gazprom. What is different in this case is that Gazprom owed Belarus more money than Belarus owed it. In announcing that it was turning the taps back on last Thursday, Gazprom said that Belarus had paid USD 187 million of the USD 192 million demanded by the state-controlled monopoly for deliveries in 2010 and pledged to restore normal supplies the same day. Gazprom said it had paid USD 228 million out of the USD 260 million demanded by Belarus for outstanding transit fees. Although gas was flowing again, no lasting peace was made and the final settling of accounts is still in dispute. Pundits believe that the real reason behind the crisis is the Belarus’ opposition to Russia’s initiative of a three-way customs union with Kazakhstan.
Gazprom supplies about 20 per cent of Europe’s gas, and some nations were forced to boost shipments between each other in order to avoid a crisis. Last Wednesday gas supplies to Lithuania via Belarus dropped by around 50 per cent. EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger called the cuts “an affront against the whole European Union.”
Human trafficking ring broken
Italian and Romanian authorities claim to have liquidated a human trafficking network, whose members are suspected of sexually exploiting 150 women in Italy. The 57 suspects in the prostitution ring are mainly Romanians, but there are Italian and Albanian members as well. Authorities claimed that the ring had been in operation since 2008.
Human speed bumps
Someone driving through Pécska, Romania in the past couple of months would have come across a new traffic sign at the side of the road: it depicted a man crawling with a bottle in his hand with the caption: “Drunk People”. The sign warned motorists to take care regarding patrons from a nearby pub in the town and received wide press coverage. According to Hungarian news weekly HVG local authorities have now changed the sign and its clear message to something much more foggy. Its replacement reads: “Other Danger Factors”.