Middle East & Balkans News Brief – 29 June 2011


News Summary

MIDDLE EAST

Tunceli Province ( Turkey). Turkish troops killed three militants during an operation in eastern Turkey, Anatolia news agency reported. The clashes between the army and a group of “terrorists” occurred in a rural area near Burnak village in Tunceli province. The report did not specify to which group the militants belonged. Rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, are active in the region. The military operation in the area continues.

Two police vehicles were targeted in separate attacks in southeastern and eastern Turkey and one police officer was lightly injured when a bomb planted on a road exploded as the police vehicle he was in was passing by in Yüksekova in the southeastern province of Hakkari.

Another police vehicle was attacked in the eastern Ağrı province when unidentified assailants hurled a noise bomb at a police vehicle. No one was hurt in the attack.

Ankara (Turkey). Turkey’s newly elected Parliament convened for the first time since the elections on 12 June, with the independent deputies boycotting the body and the main opposition party refusing to take the oath. Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Oktay Ekşi chaired the first gathering of the assembly as the eldest member of Parliament.

Ekşi made a short speech before the ceremony, expressing that this was the first time the Turkish Parliament has convened with deputies missing, as eight of them are currently under arrest. “This situation is not becoming of this assembly’s glory and the level of democracy we have achieved,” he said.

The debut of the Turkish Parliament dashed hopes of consensus on a new constitution. According to Hürriyet Daily News, what makes the situation worse is the failure of the political parties and the judiciary to find a way out of the ongoing crisis stemming from legislative mistakes and legal interpretations that are keeping eight elected deputies behind bars.

Gaza (Palestine). On 31 May 2010, Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists, including one who also had US citizenship, when they boarded a Turkish vessel that was part of a flotilla trying to break the Israeli-imposed blockade of Gaza. At a press conference held on 27 June in Athens, it became clear that the new flotilla would carry 350 pro-Palestinian activists from 22 countries. Israel has ordered its navy to stop an international 10-ship aid flotilla from breaching a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, but also to avoid clashes with activists on board.

“The state of Israel is determined to stop the flotilla before its arrival in Gaza,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said. But forces would be ordered to do so “with minimal confrontation, as far as possible, with those on board the ships”. The US administration said it hopes to avoid a repeat of last year’s Gaza flotilla debacle, and called for “restraint” as a new flotilla prepares to take to the seas.

BALKANS

Athens (Greece). Greek police uses tear-gas against demonstrators on the first day of the nationwide strike. Greece’s 300-member parliament began a three-day debate on the new austerity measures while the whole country is in the grip of a 48-hour nationwide strike. Air traffic is halted in the peak hours, trains and trams do not run, public administration offices, banks and schools will be closed, hospitals  work with reduced staff and local media outlets go out of operation during the general strike.The strike takes place just as Greece is seeking to pass a new austerity package worth 28 billion Euro in spending cuts and tax hikes by 2015 in a bid to secure continued funding from a 110 billion Euro international bailout package.

Benghazi (Libya), Sofia (Bulgaria).  Bulgaria’s Borisov Cabinet changed its position of March 2011 when it had refused to recognize the National Transitional Council on the grounds that some of its members might have been involved in the torture of the six Bulgarian medics in the so-called Libya HIV trial (1999-2007).

Bulgaria and Croatia have become the 19th and 20th sovereign nations to have recognized formally the Libyan rebels’ National Transitional Council in Benghazi as the legitimate representative of the Libyan nation in international affairs. The act of recognition came during a visit of Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov in Benghazi, the rebels’ capital, on Tuesday.

According to the UN between 10,000 and 15,000 persons have been killed since the start of unrest in Libya in mid-February. More than 900,000 further persons are estimated to have been displaced or have fled due to the turmoil in the country.

A senior US military officer taking part in the NATO operation in Libya has reportedly stated that it is the intention of the alliance to eliminate Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Sofia (Bulgaria). Bulgaria holds the first place in the EU in terms of cheapest consumer goods, and is next to the cheapest location on the continent, according to a Eurostat study. Bulgaria heads the ranking for average price of goods at 51% of the EU average, with Denmark being the most expensive country at 143% and the UK sitting comfortably in the middle at 100%. Other expensive countries include Luxembourg and Sweden (120%), Ireland (118%) Belgium and France (both 112%).The next cheapest are Bulgaria’s neighbor Romania at 59%, followed by Lithuania and Poland (both 63%).

Sofia (Bulgaria). According to US Freedom House NGO’s Report “Countries in Transition – 2011” Bulgaria and Hungary are the countries in which democracy has deteriorated along two of the total eight assessment criteria: democracy in general and democratic governing. FH’s report describes the 2010 situation in former Soviet-Bloc and satellite countries in 2010.

The  main governance challenges in Bulgaria in 2010 were economic. Many of the reforms undertaken by the government stalled or were only partially successful, ranging from social security, healthcare, and public education to the fight against corruption and organized crime and reforming the judiciary. Freedom House predicts that Bulgaria will faces challenges on several fronts in 2011 starting with the main one – the economic recovery. Bulgaria’s membership in Schengen will be postponed and that may be interpreted as a failure of GERB government, thus resulting in additional erosion of the public confidence in the Prime Minister.

The outcome of the presidential elections in the autumn will predetermine whether the country will stick to the current model of parliamentary government with party-free president or change to a model implying active involvement of the president in party politics.

Sofia (Bulgaria). The efforts of the Bulgarian government against human trafficking are still inadequate but improving, according to the annual US State Department report on the subject. The Department of State recommends also improvement in the level of integration and living conditions of the Roma minority, a frequent source of traffic victims.

Sofia (Bulgaria). Mihail Andonov is the old new executive director of Bulgaria’s state-owned power utility NEK. Andonov replaces Krasimir Parvanov who was dismissed after overstepping his negotiating mandate on Belene NPP by committing both sides to sign a final agreement on the plant’s construction by 1 July 2011. Andonov announced that he would order a check into the tender procedures for electricity sales organized by Kozloduy NPP and said that NEK is in a good financial condition.

NEK ended 2010 with a profit of 61 million Euro and is expected to register another 30 million Euro profit for the first six months of 2011. Euro 73.8 million were provided from the Kozlodouy Fund to the central heating in Sofia and decommissioning of the old reactors in Kozlodouy NPP. As a start on his new/old post, Andnov signed an agreement  to spend 37.8 million Euro for the construction of  pipelines.

The liabilities of NEK consist of loans to the amount of 250 million Euro from BNP-Paribas for the Belene Project structuring plus 160 million Euro for Tzankov Kamak hydro-junction and outstanding payments to project’s contractor Alpine. NEK also owes 60 million Euro to Russia’s ACE for the first reactor in Belene, part of which, has to be subjected to acceptance by Bulgaria’s side. Economy, Energy and Tourism Minister Traykov declined to comment on the talks over Belene NPP between Bulgaria and Russia.

(Middle East & Balkans News, 29 June 2011)

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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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One Response to Middle East & Balkans News Brief – 29 June 2011

  1. You really know your stuff… Keep up the good work!

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