Stories written by Claudia Ciobanu
Claudia Ciobanu covers Central and Eastern Europe for IPS. Romanian, she is currently based in Warsaw, Poland. She is particularly interested in environmental issues and social activism in post-socialist countries.
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Despite pushes from international bodies such as the United Nations (UN) or the European Union (EU) to promote gender equality in Central and Eastern Europe, access to funding for such initiatives remains largely conditional upon national governments’ willingness to embrace this agenda.
Last weekend saw tens of thousands of people across Europe taking to the streets in protest against the international treaty to enforce intellectual property rights. European politicians are gradually distancing themselves from the treaty, largely as a result of citizen mobilisation initiated in Central Europe.
For more than a week, thousands have been demonstrating in cities across Romania. Participants from all walks of life bring to the fore the broadest array of demands in what looks like a celebratory discovery of street protest. The main call is against lack of transparency and accountability in decision-making.
The economic crisis has led Romanian authorities to take some of the toughest austerity measures in Central and Eastern Europe. While no big opposition movement emerged as a result, a special kind of protest has taken place: some have committed suicide to get their messages across.
For the past nine weeks, Belarusians have been getting out in the hundreds into the main squares of big and small cities across the country on Wednesdays at seven in the evening. They clap, or let their mobiles ring all at once. The ‘Revolution through Social Networks- movement’ started by five students, and growing on the Russian equivalent of Facebook, Vkontakte, is posing a new threat to the Lukashenko regime.
About 5,000 people attended the Equality Parade in Polish capital Warsaw this weekend. Among them, the country’s first transgender rights activists, who in the last couple of years have made great strides in gaining recognition for the country’s transgender community.
The Albanian opposition is set to hold another mass rally on Friday, even though three people were killed during an anti-government demonstration last week, allegedly by armed forces of the Ministry of Interior.
Eastern European youths have been getting high on "plant feed" or "bath salt" for over two years, catching up fast with Western European trends in drug abuse. Governments in the region are now scrambling to control use.
The Slow Food movement has won significant support from the European Union. Dacian Ciolos, the European Union Commissioner for Agriculture, spoke to IPS in support of the movement at Terra Madre, a biennial reunion of promoters of the Slow Food movement.
The red sludge spill at the Ajka alumina plant in Hungary has been called one of the three worst environmental disasters in Europe in the last 20-30 years. But environmentalists warn other waste depositing sites in Central and Eastern Europe are prone to similar accidents.
Georgia's punitive criminal justice system has resulted in one of the highest imprisonment rates worldwide. Overcrowding of jails now hampers an ambitious government plan to reform the penitentiary system.
The "gypsy market" in Brasov is bustling with activity on a Saturday morning. It's one of the few places left where pensioners and other low-income Romanians can buy decent clothes cheaply. And also here, the power dynamics between Roma and non-Roma is silently shifting.
Five newborns died last week in a fire caused by an airconditioning fault at a Bucharest maternity. Insufficient, overworked staff and deficient maintenance -- results of inadequate funding of the health system - -were listed among the causes.
All major European countries plan mass expulsions of Roma or demolitions of Roma settlements. Rights groups warn that these measures entail the criminalisation of an entire ethnic group, and break EU law.
"We are trying to change children's attitude to food and to make sure there are still farmers in our countries in a decade or two," says Marta Pozsonyi, one of the Romanian representatives at the first Terra Madre Balkans meeting that took place in Sofia last week.