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January 20 2014

European Citizens Call for the Protection of Media Pluralism

For updates follow @MediaECI on Twitter and 'like' the Facebook page European Initiative for Media Pluralism.

Website: MediaInitiative.eu. For updates follow @MediaECI on Twitter and ‘like’ the Facebook page European Initiative for Media Pluralism.

“European institutions should safeguard the right to free, independent and pluralistic information”. The quote, from the Media Initiative website, summarizes the main idea behind a pan-European campaign that aims at urging the European Commission to draft a Directive to protect Media Pluralism and Press Freedom.

The Media Initiative is running a European Citizens’ Initiative - a tool of participatory democracy “which allows civil society coalitions to collect online and offline one million signatures in at least 7 EU member states to present directly to the European Commission a proposal forming the base of an EU Directive, initiating a legislative process”. The petition is available in 15 languages and can be signed online:

Protecting media pluralism through partial harmonization of national rules on media ownership and transparency, conflicts of interest with political office and independence of media supervisory bodies.

A short video presents the campaign:

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

July 03 2013

Eastern Europeans to Boost UK IT Industry

As of January 1, 2014, the UK labour movement restrictions placed several years ago to prevent migrants from Romania and Bulgaria from moving permanently and seeking employment in the UK will be lifted. Some predict large migrations of workers from these two countries, among the poorest in the European Union, while others say that migrations will be so small they will barely be felt and many emphasize the fact that Romania has a growing, innovative IT industry that will also benefit the British IT industry. Other Eastern European countries have also helped boost the UK's thriving IT industry in the recent past, such as Estonia, Lithuania, Slovenia and more. The Independent covers several sides of the developing story, with quotes from Eastern European immigrant IT entrepreneurs in the UK:

(more…)

March 14 2012

Europe: Will ACTA Treaty Pass After Protests?

[All links forward to French articles unless stated otherwise.]

As of the end of the month of February 2012, the mobilization efforts of Internet users against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) [en] were still going strong. In fact, they may have begun to bear fruit.

By including infringements against the author's rights in its scope, this international treaty, which addresses intellectual property rights, also affects Internet content.

The ratification debates which were placed on the European Parliament's agenda on February 29, were put on hold in expectation of the opinion of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The issue of the treaty's conformity with European Community law was brought before the court on 22 February by the European Commission.

No ACTA - Strasbourg. Photo by Christophe Kaiser on Flickr, CC-license-BY

No ACTA - Strasbourg. Photo by Christophe Kaiser on Flickr, CC-license-BY

Taurillon, the “magazine of young Europeans -France” describes “Europe's about-face on ACTA“:

Si l’avis est négatif, l’ACTA n’a plus aucune chance en Europe. Mais en cas d’avis positif, le recours à la CJUE représente le double avantage de redonner au traité une certaine crédibilité, et de repousser son adoption à une époque suffisamment lointaine pour que la polémique se soit tassée et que l’opinion publique regarde ailleurs.

If the opinion is negative, ACTA no longer stands a chance in Europe. However, if there is a positive opinion, appealing to the ECJ would mean a double advantage by giving the treaty a certain credibility, and also pushing back implementation to a time that is far enough away when public debate has settled down and the public's attention is focused elsewhere.

Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder and spokesperson for la Quadrature du Net urges on the European deputies:

Les eurodéputés doivent résister à la stratégie de la Commission européenne, qui cherche à gagner du temps et à transformer le débat en une simple discussion juridique, et pour cela continuer à travailler au rejet d’ACTA. ACTA vise à imposer une tendance pour une politique globale du droit d’auteur qui est toxique pour l’Internet libre et pour les libertés. Le Parlement européen est le dernier rempart : il doit agir et adopter une position claire et forte, faute de quoi il laissera le champ libre à la Commission pour imposer une répression inacceptable.

The Eurodeputies must resist the European Commission's strategy of attempting to gain time and turning the debate into a simple legal discussion, thereby continuing to work towards ACTA's rejection. ACTA aims to impose a tendency for a global policy of author's rights that is toxic for the free Internet and for freedom. The European Parliament is the last line of defense: it must act and adopt a firm and clear position, otherwise it will leave the field wide open for the commission to impose an unacceptable repression.

For trucbuntu, there is no question of remaining passive while waiting for the Court to adjudicate:

Les citoyens de toute l’Europe peuvent contacter leurs représentants dans les commissions Commerce International (INTA) et Industrie (ITRE), qui se réunissent cette semaine pour discuter d’ACTA, et leur demander de continuer à travailler au sein de leur commission pour le rejet d’ACTA.

Citizens of all of Europe were able to contact their representatives in the International Trade (INTA) and Industry (ITRE) Committees, who met on February 29 to discuss ACTA. Many citizens requested their representatives to reject the proposal.

The website of the European Parliament explains the procedure and the issues of the treaty [en] that are under scrutiny, and has published ‘What you should know about ACTA‘ [en], a page of questions and answers. The ACTA workshop of the European Parliament has been the object of a storify [en] made by the Parliamentary services (link via Global Voices contributor Asteris Masouras [en]).

The organization AVAAZ submitted a petition to the European Parliament on 29 February with 2.4 million signatures against ACTA. The petition is still open:

Nous sommes vraiment proches de la victoire — notre pétition forte de 2,4 millions de signatures a ébranlé les responsables politiques partout en Europe et stoppé les censeurs. La Commission européenne est à présent en position de faiblesse et espère que la Cour de justice donnera son feu vert au traité ACTA en lui soumettant une question juridique très limitée qui recevra certainement une réponse positive.Mais si nous faisons résonner nos voix aujourd'hui, nous pouvons faire en sorte que la Cour examine tous les impacts légaux du traité ACTA et publie un avis qui fera toute la lumière sur cette attaque contre nos droits qu'est ACTA.

We are really close to victory — our petition, with 2.4 million signatures has shaken up those politicians in charge throughout Europe and stopped their censors. The European Commission is currently in a position of weakness and is hoping the Court of justice will green light the ACTA treaty by bringing before the court a very limited legal question, that will without doubt receive a positive response. But if we make our voices heard today, we will be able to get the court to examine all the legal implications of ACTA and publish an opinion that will bring to light the real attack against our rights that is ACTA.
No ACTA - Strasbourg. Photo Christophe Kaiser on Flickr, CC-license-BY

No ACTA - Strasbourg. Photo Christophe Kaiser on Flickr, CC-license-BY

Anti-ACTA parties continue to  strengthen their resources. New protests were set for 10 March, and torrentnews gives a list, with this appeal:

La liste n’est pas exhaustive, n’hésitez pas à nous contacter pour la compléter ;)

si certains se sentent l’âme d’un reporter- photographe en herbe, nous recherchons également des personnes pour faire un petit article photo du déroulement de la manif, rien de bien compliqué, comme fait ici pour Nice, Marseille,Bordeaux et Strasbourg.

The list is not exhaustive, do not hesitate to contact us to complete it ;)

If any individuals see themselves as budding photojournalists we are also looking for people to do a small photo story on how the protest unfolds, nothing too complicated, as it happens in Nice, Marseille, Bordeaux, and Strasbourg.

For details on the elements of the debate, see also these linked articles from the Tribune on February 29, and Myeurop, on March 3. On Global Voices, see the laws SOPA/PIPA that set a precedent in the USA, here [en] and here [en]. Since the beginning of the protests, ACTA seems to have lost a lot of political momentum.

The title of this post is inspired by the end of the article “La liberté sur Internet : le filtrage de la discorde” which was published by the Institute of Research and Legal and Information studies and Communication (I.R.E.D.I.C.). It puts into perspective Internet blocking and debates the adoption of ACTA.

The original article in French was published on March 4. For background on the ACTA proposal, more articles can be found here [en].

January 08 2012

CEE: “Spotted by Locals”

Spotted by Locals: Experience cities like a local features a few dozen locations, including CEE cities of Belgrade, Bucharest, Budapest, Krakow, Ljubljana, Prague, Riga, Sofia, Tallinn, Vilnius, Warsaw, and Zagreb. A random sample post from Zagreb, Croatia: Hrelić Flea Market – The Aleph of Zagreb; from Bucharest, Romania: The Haunted House – Armenian Neighbourhood; from Sofia, Bulgaria: Nissim – A True Old-School Bookstore.

December 25 2011

Macedonia: Christmas Tree Made of Plastic Bottles

Inspired by the example of Kaunas, Lithuania, Macedonian Twitter users made a Christmas tree from plastic bottles at the Skopje City Park on Dec. 25, to raise awareness of everyone's responsibility for the environment. The action's organizers used their blogs [mk, mk, mk, mk] as a starting point for the quick social media campaign #елкамк (elka = a fir tree). The tree has remained in place during the night, and if the poor people who gather plastic from the streets and garbage dumpsters for recycling don't harvest it, the authors plan [mk] to properly dispose of it after the New Year's.

October 26 2011

Lithuania: Corruption within the Educational System

Alan Hendrixson of With a Grain of Duska discusses problems arising from corruption within Lithuanian education and health system.

September 22 2011

CEE: Top 10 Worldwide Download Speed

Watcher.com.ua reports [uk] that, according to a 6-month study of 27 million downloads by 20 million computers in 224 countries conducted by Pando Networks, Romania (1,909KBps), Bulgaria (1,611KBps), Lithuania (1,462KBps) and Latvia (1,377KBps) have the second, third, fourth and fifth highest download speeds in the world, while Ukraine has been ranked #8 (1,190KBps).

September 10 2011

Lithuania: Mushroom-Picking and Basketball

Lithuania - the best! writes about mushroom-picking and basketball: “I believe that mushroom hunting is second favorite sport in Lithuania after basketball :)”

September 04 2011

Macedonia: Euphoria after Basketball Victory over Greece

Celebrations erupted among Macedonians worldwide after the national team beat Greece at the European Basketball Championship of 2011 - EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania - the first such victory ever in the history of international sport.

The victory for the Macedonian national team with 72:58 at EuroBasket 2011 was a big surprise, since the Greek national team “is considered among the world's top basketball powers; they were runners-up in the 2006 FIBA World Championship and they have won the European Championship twice, in 1987 and 2005,” according to Wikipedia.

� вака им �е покаж�ва ��еден п��� на ���и�е #makbasket #Skopj... on TwitpicSoon after the game ended early Satuday evening, the jubilant flag-waving fans filled the public spaces of Macedonian cities and towns. Sport!Denes (Sport!Today) published a photo gallery [mk] from the main square in Skopje.

A Croatian media outlet 24 sata (24 hours) reported [hr] immediately after the match:

The story of the day is the Macedonian win over their southern neighbors, whose [political pressure] forces them to use the designation “Former Yugoslav Republic of” in front of their name. Even though the players do not want to talk politics, they claim this is the dearest victory of their careers.

- “It's crazy now in Skopje and the whole Macedonia, everybody goes to the main square to celebrate this” - Todor Gečevski said, while Pero Antić added:

- “We shall celebrate Independence Day on September 8, and they might build another monument for us on account of this.”

The best player of the game for Macedonia was African-American Bo McCalleb. Specialized basketball blog NBA Macedonia declared [mk] that he's “The Greatest Macedonian.”*

A screenshot from MakNBA blog featuring Bo McCalleb.

A screenshot from MakNBA blog featuring Bo McCalleb.

Twitter (the main hashtag: #makbasket) and Facebook buzzed with comments. Many Macedonian social media users expressed joy with dignity, while others used triumphant nationalist “in your face, Greece” rhetoric.

Right after the game, Azder wrote [mk]:

#makbasket should be celebrated with going to a town square. Please suggest a square with space for people, instead of statues.

Twitter profile photo with Bo McCallebDavorvori9, who changed his profile photo to one with Bo McCalleb, wrote [mk] a few hours later:

I can't remember when I was so euphoric and happy, possibly never. Thank you for this, guys! #makbasket

Roberto Belicanec wrote on Facebook (reprinted with permission)…

YEAAH ! We won! Hm - let me explain something to you. Five athletes won over five other athletes while you where turning beer into the piss. - Bill Maher!
But still, this is quite nice :)

…and Ivica Anteski retorted (also reprinted with permission):

Our diplomacy will be as strong when we take a Black person for Minister of Foreign Affairs :)

Cchevymk proposed [mk] a new basketball-inspired country car sticker, using [mk] clipart by Rosie Piter…

…and DzikiKikiriki refered [mk] to the first Greek reactions, linking to an article in E Kathimerini:

Well now it is not our fault that the Greek Government did not have money to send Greek fans to Lithuania…

Border Blockade

The next morning, a group of several dozens angry Greek citizens, who allegedly came on several buses, blocked the main border pass towards Macedonia. Reports [mk] by PlusInfo.mk portal claimed the mob consisted of nationalists (according to the signs they displayed), including neo-Nazis or skinheads. The Greek police redirected Macedonian travelers to other border crossings for a few hours to prevent confrontations, and the crossing was unblocked [mk] without additional incidents.

Victory over Finland, Too

During the afternoon, Macedonia also won the game with Finland, and darko_avr refered to an old internet joke based on famous advertisement (”Nokia - Connecting People”) and a favorite Balkan spirit when he tweeted:

Rakia 72 - Nokia 70

Karakash_MakNBA commented [mk] on this much harder won game:

Either due to fatigue, or due to physical or emotional effect of yesterday's victory, or maybe due to getting wasted last night (who knows), the Macedonian team had a hard time with Finland. Even though they are not as weak and naive a team, as everybody thought so before the match. Especially if they start a good shooting series, they are no joke.

Teams that are hard to define and and play fast basketball, without much boloney, are the hardest opponents.

As both Greece and Finland are EU members, Parmakovski joked [mk]:

After today's blockade of [Evzoni], I'm afraid if we win the championship, EU could forever block us from the [Schengen Area]…

This victory, alongside the previous unexpected win over Croatia and continued good showings could result in participation at least in the quarter-finals, according to the analysеs (1, 2) [mk] by angelov480048. Kuzevski also provided [mk] some applied analysis:

Let's all jointly support Greece and Croatia, since if they win their next games Macedonia would get 4 points in the next group…

…and Sead93 concured [mk]:

We survived the Hangover Game well enough, we should all most patriotically root for Greece (because it suits our score in the tournament)…

In conclusion MarjanIvanovski informed [mk] about a unquestionably positive consequence, regardless of nationality:

The neighborhood kids immediately gathered to play some basketball :)). There's no better advertisement and greater motivation than an achieved result…

* Note:

Success of multi-ethnic Macedonian national team runs contrary to the ideology of ethnic nationalism, and the irony seems lost on the Macedonian nationalists, who wholeheartedly partake in the celebrations. Like their other Balkans brothers-in-hate, they often use slogans such as “clean Macedonia,” and value “purity” of assumed genetic lineages. Even though the mainstream Macedonian nationalism is not explicitly racist in the color-of-skin sort of way, some of its propagators lean toward white supremacy, like in the film about God's message to Macedonians [mk] by Niche Dimovski, repeatedly aired on the state TV after the current regime took power. It includes claims that prehistoric Macedonians are progenitors of the “White Race”:

[Voice of God:] “I inhabited your Mother Earth with three races: the White - Makedonoids, the Yellow - Mongoloids, and the Black - Negrids. The rest are all mulattoes. I started the White race from you, the Macedonians, descendants of Macedon, and from you all began, till the Japanese Sea.”

Other nationalist products often refer to a genetics study about “Sub-Saharan” (i.e. recent African) origins of modern Greeks to “prove” that Macedonians are older and more indigenous people.

Still, examples of racial violence have been rare in the recent Macedonian history, possibly because not too many dark-skinned people immigrate to Macedonia on account of its depressed economy. There have been football incidents of racial abuse, though, and a chant mentions “Goce's race.” Most regular citizens would say [mk] that “there's no racism in Macedonia.”

August 03 2011

Lithuania: Slovenian Blogger Comments on Vilnius Mayor's Tank Stunt

Piran Café's updates the blog's somewhat neglected “self-absorbed bike lane-parking morons” section with a vivid example from Lithuania, where the mayor of Vilnius Arturas Zuokas drove an armored personnel carrier over a Mercedes, which had been acquired specifically for the stunt and parked in a bike lane. “The best use of a tank I’ve ever seen,” wrote the Slovenian blogger.

Lithuania: Crushing Illegal Parking

Journalist & Optimist tells [ger] how the mayor of Lithuania's capital Vilnius crushes a car with a tank, in an attempt to show non-tolerance of illegal parking, a long-time problem in the city.

August 01 2011

Lithuania-Austria: Continued Controversy Over Ex-KGB Man

Albatros of Litauen blog discusses [ger] the ongoing controversy between Lithuania and Austria, after authorities in Vienna let go of an internationally wanted ex-KGB officer, who allegedly was party to the January 1991 Vilnius killings of Lithuanians by soviet troops.

July 09 2011

Lithuania: Emigration Problems

With a Grain of Druska writes about Lithuania's worsening demographic situation: “[…] Population has decreased about 19 per cent (the same as if 62.3 million US citizens left the U.S.A.). And best case scenario, another 16.7 per cent of the population will disappear. You would think that supporting families, creating jobs, and improving healthcare would be priorities for the government. They aren't, though. […]”

June 16 2011

Estonia-Latvia-Lithuania: 70th anniversary of deportations

Otto's Random Thoughts commemorates the 70th anniversary of deportations from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania following the June 1940 Soviet occupation of the countries, whereas Itching for Eestimaa reflects upon the political and social legacy of the deportations for Estonia.

March 29 2011

March 12 2011

Belarus: Petition to Move 2014 Ice Hockey Championship Elsewhere

Written by Veronica Khokhlova

Pyotr Kuznetsov posts a petition (RUS, ENG) to the International Ice Hockey Federation, drafted by Lithuania-based Belarusian opposition activists, in which they are proposing “to change the location of the [2014 ice hockey championship] from Belarus to another country” - because “[t]he atmosphere in Belarus and the actions of Mr. Lukashenka are incompatible with the principles of sport and the mission of IIHF.”

November 04 2010

July 15 2010

Poland-Lithuania-Belarus: Grünwald 600 years

By Vilhelm Konnander

Belarus Digest writes about celebrations of the 600th anniversary of the battle of Grünwald, when troops from Poland, Lithuania, and Belarus defeated the Order of the Teutonic knights - a major turn in the medieval regional balance of power.

July 07 2010

Lithuania: Visiting Vilnius KGB museum

By Vilhelm Konnander

Wu Wei tells about her reactions to a visit to the Vilnius KGB museum, and reflects upon historical and current parallels between prison systems.

July 06 2010

Estonia-Latvia-Lithuania: Past, present, and future

By Vilhelm Konnander

Veiko Spolitis of Baltic discusses the past, present, and future of governance in the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

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