Middle East & Balkans News Brief – 20 June 2011

News Summary


Аnkara (Turkey). The Anatolian Press Agency reports that 10,639 Syrian people have sought shelter in Turkey in an attempt to escape from the violence and disorder in their native country.

Damascus (Syria). In his first speech in the last two months, President Bashir al-Assad said ruled out implementation of reforms in Syria amidst “sabotage and chaos” in the country. Assad qualified the period as a “turning point” after “difficult days,” and underscored that Syria would emerge stronger in the face of the “plotting” against it. Meanwhile, protests continue in Syria after Assad’s speech.

Hatay Provice (Turkey). Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Ministry Disaster & Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD) sent 3.75 million TL (nearly USD 2.3 million) to Hatay Governor’s Office to meet the needs of Syrian people in the city. The Syrians are staying in four temporary refugee camps set up by Turkish Red Crescent in Altinozu and Yayladag towns of Turkey’s southern province of Hatay.
Luxembourg (Luxembourg). The European Union is on the way to expand sanctions against Syrian President Bashir al-Assad’s regime, according to a draft resolution to be adopted by EU foreign ministers. The EU  seeks to “expand its restrictive measures by additional designations”. The EU has been looking at adding firms and a dozen people to a blacklist with another 23 people targeted by an asset freeze and travel ban which already includes Assad and key allies.


Athens (Greece). Anti-austerity demonstrators gathered in the central square outside Greek parliament as power workers launched a strike. Meanwhile, Euro-zone finance ministers warned Greece that before a final decision is made on a further 12 billion euros in loans, evidence should be produced by Athens in favor of implementation of unpopular reforms related to spending cuts, tax-raise and meeting requirements for additional revenue streams. Ministers also indicated that the next tranche of EU/IMF aid would be paid by mid-July. German Sueddeutsche Zeitung comments that EU finance ministers keep Greece in the dark.

Sofia (Bulgaria). President Georgi Parvanov signed an Edict setting the elections for mayors for 23 October 2011. The presidential elections were scheduled for the same date in line with a decision of the Bulgarian parliament last week. Prime Minister Boyko Borisov broke the news that minimum salary and widow’s pensions would not be increased before the elections because he would not like to take risks similar to those in Greece. Thus the increased minimum salary will be 140 Euro.

Sofia (Bulgaria). Russian media signal the possibility for Bulgaria to be taken to arbitration by the Russian contractor Rosatom for breaching the last annex on Belene nuclear power plant envisaging 1 July as a contract sealing date. Bulgaria has demanded that Belene nuclear project is frozen for another three months. Asked about Bulgaria’s risk to face arbitration, Bulgaria’s energy, economy and tourism minister Traycho Traikov said: “The arbitration is not a risk, it is an option.”

Skopje (Rep. of Macedonia). Over the weekend, the 12-meter high statue resembling Alexander the Great on a horseback was finally erected in line with a decision of Nikola Gruevski’s government. This provoked a furious reaction on the side of Athens. Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle has warned Macedonia that the country could lose its EU candidate status if no progress is made on the path to reform and if the EU hopeful keeps on taking actions considered by Greece as “provocations.”

Belgrade (Serbia). Vecernje Novosti reports that the West Balkans will be on the agenda of an upcoming meeting of EU foreign ministers to be held in Luxembourg. Vecernje Novosti comments that the meeting comes in a time when there are some signals from Brussels that the European integration of the West Balkans will be speeded up.

Belgrade (Serbia). Serbia’s Blic newspaper quotes foreign minister Vuk Jeremic as saying: “It is not in Serbia’s interest to ever recognize the independence of its breakaway province of Kosovo.” Jeremic comments that if this happens Serbia can well expect new declarations of independence in other quarters.

Sisak (Croatia). A fire has burst out in a pipeline at a refinery in the Croatian town of Sisak at 10:30 a.m. Seven explosions have occurred so far. No victims were reported.

Zagreb (Croatia). “After Bulgaria and Romania became EU member states four years ago, Croatia finds it hard to hide its disappointment. They [Bulgaria and Romania] are in, while Croatia has been under negotiations for six years now. It is unfair,” Croatian daily newspaper Novi List reports and emphasizes that “Croatia had a hard time – it gave up on the fishery act, crossed out from the budget the companies that are suffering losses, decreased the number of not finalised lawsuits, fights the conflict of interests and carried out arrests over corruption… In brief, it had to meet around 400 additional conditions….”

(Middle East & Balkans News, 20 June 2011)


About Johann Brandstätter

Photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Bulgaria, working mainly in the Balkans and the Middle East. Conflicts & crises, social and environmental issues, defense & military, travel, transportation.
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