Georgia erupted in jubilation February 2 as EU lawmakers approved visa-free access for Georgian citizens, a prize Tbilisi has long sought. The former Soviet republic hopes that the short-stay visa waiver becomes a major step toward eventual full membership in the European Union.
Things are getting serious again in western Kazakhstan. This oil-rich region on the Caspian Sea was the scene over several months in 2011 of prolonged labor unrest, culminating in clashes that December that killed at least a dozen people.
Officials in Kazakhstan, by issuing an unexpected and urgent press release about an imminent televised address by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, unleashed a squall of chatter. But not all the talk about the contents of the January 24 address may be to authorities’ liking.
Any hope that authorities in Kyrgyzstan might show leniency toward jailed activist Azimjan Askarov was squashed on January 24, when a court reinstated his life sentence. Rights advocates expressed dismay at the verdict, calling it a violation of Kyrgyzstan’s international commitments.