Sunday, February 05, 2006

Transylvania Roundup

I browsed around to see what is happening in Transylvania and that which borders it: the rest of Romania, Ukraine, Hungary, and Slovakia. Technically, I should include Serbia as well, but I never have a clear sense what any of the news stories mean there.

Romania and Ukraine have gotten together a joint venture to drill for oil in the Black Sea. You will note that this agreement was attempted by previous left-leaning governments of both countries without accord. The center-right coalitions, if they are to survive in this part of the world, must be able to make such deals and keep corruption to a minimum.

Corruption has been the major drag on the Romanian economy since the Revolution of 89. I spoke with a Romanian who had moved to Australia when young and become successful there. He was returning to try and start a transportation business in Timisoara, but was discouraged. He didn't balk at the $100,000 in bribes he had to pay, but that ponying up produced no guarrantees. He called this Middle-Eastern rather than European corruption, and thought it did not bode well for Romania's future.

On positive economic notes, there is this intriguing tourist attraction, and confidence of better times ahead in Mihail Kogalniceanu. This latter was in the news as the suspect "black site" in Romania where the US was secretly sending prisoners. I hope we have several such sites there, though I would guess that Maramures is more likely than near the Black Sea. You could hide anything in Maramures. Forever.

There are elections happening in Hungary in April. The center-right FIDESZ party is currently leading in the polls, (background here), and the 50th Anniversary of the 1956 Uprising is still making waves.

Hungarian newspapers reprinted the controversial Danish cartoons, and the Saudis don't like it.

Slovakia is showing more sense than the Democrats about social security, and Ukraine hopes to join NATO.

But the best news is that the Romanians may get this free-market idea down after all. Dacia Logans, coming to a parking lot nowhere near you.

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