THE UNBIASED OBSERVERS, Issue 18


From 1 September 2011 this newsletter service is subscription only. See Balkan News Service for details.


Friday, 29 July 2011

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The purpose of the newsletter is to provide the latest news in the Balkans region in an objective, balanced and multiple-perspective way. All sources are quoted for the sake of convenience of the readers. By reading the newsletter you’ll learn in less than half an hour all regional top-headlines in politics and economy.

Take some time while drinking your morning tea or coffee and read the myriad of Balkan news. The Unbiased Observers saves you the time that you will spend delving into the topics later during the day.

We are your everyday personal and accessible news provider and we are ready to do additional research in order to meet your interest demands and answer your questions.

Read us every day, share some brief moments in the morning with us.

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Coverage: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Turkey

Timing: 6:30 am GMT every day Mon to Fri

Provision: e-mail service

Language: English

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Today’s Topics:

Politics and others:

  • Armenia’s apology sought by Turkey;
  • Turkish new Constitution will be shorter and less complex, Turkish PM Erdoğan says;
  • After the Silvan case, Turkey sets up a special anti-terror unit;
  • Greek taxis’ strike becomes a problem;
  • Greek Civil Aviation cancels a strike;
  • EU and Serbian President condemn violence in Kosovo; UN Security Council holds a meeting on Kosovo;
  • The government in Cyprus resigns;
  • Bulgarian President vetoes the ban on former security staff to be diplomats;
  • Australia appoints new ambassador in Bulgaria, Albania and Greece

Economy:

  • TBB backs Turkish Central Bank’s move to halt lira depreciation;
  • Belgian Ageas pays US$220M for 31% in Turkish Aksigorta;
  • S&P downgrades Greece; Athens pushes the sale of gambling company OPAP;
  • Greece names dealer managers for the bond swap operation;
  • Albania imposes a fine of half a million US dollars an Austrian company over broken investment promise;
  • Lukoil’s management arrives in Sofia to discuss license revocation

BALKANS – POLITICS & OTHER

Ankara (Turkey)

Armenia’s apology sought by Turkey

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is on an official visit to Azerbaijan at the invitation of President Ilham Aliyev. After a meeting with the Azerbaijani President, Erdoğan was asked to comment on Armenian President Serge Sarkisian’s recent statement on Western Armenia.

Erdoğan said: “The statements of the Armenian president are not an expression or an approach that suits a president. Equipping the next generations with hatred and enmity does not suit statesmanship. What Sarkisian does here is provocation. It is efforts to equip his own [country’s] youth with hatred and enmity.”

Over the weekend the Armenian President called youth to enable the return of “historic territories in Western Armenia” that are currently found in eastern Turkey, as his generation had done with the contested territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

“Sarkisian has committed a very serious mistake here. He has highlighted and affirmed a historic mistake. He must apologize and backtrack from his mistake,” Erdoğan added.

Ankara (Turkey)

Turkish new Constitution shorter and concise

Turkey’s new constitution will be shorter and much less complex than its current charter as it represents the people “using the language of the people,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is quoted as saying by Hurryiet Daily News

The government expects opposition parties to help participate in the drafting of the constitution starting in October, Erdoğan said, adding that the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, was not trying to impose its own version of the constitution.

“There are efforts by nongovernmental organizations and efforts to get citizens involved in the process. Our nine-person commission is working on these basic principles and will come to a conclusion. A possible commission created with opposition parties will also meet with NGOs, academics and the media,” said the Turkish Prime Minister.

Ankara (Turkey)

After the Silvan case, Turkey sets up a special anti-terror unit

Responding to questions from reporters on whether there were gendarmerie commanders who had been demoted or reassigned after the deadly July 14 ambush, Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin confirmed that the Gendarmerie Command had done without mentioning any number.

One major and one first lieutenant who had led the operation in Silvan were removed from their posts, the private channel NTV reported after the Interior Minister’s statements. Thirteen troops were killed and seven wounded July 14 in a clash with members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in Silvan, part of the southeastern province of Diyarbakır.

The Turkish Interior Minister also said the government was engaged in efforts to form a special anti-terror unit for the Black Sea region, where the outlawed PKK has started to gain a foothold. One police officer was killed and another was injured during a terrorist attack in May against a convoy taking some of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s top aides back to Ankara after an election rally in the northern Black Sea province of Kastamonu.

Athens (Greece)

Greek taxis’ strike becomes a problem

Around 2,000 stiking taxi drivers gathered at the port of Piraeus, at the cruise ship terminal, on 28 July in a continued protest against the government’s plans to open up their sector to competition, Ekathimerini reported.

Cabbies set up crowd barriers at the port in anticipation of the scheduled arrival of five cruise ships, according to police who added that unidentified protesters had poured oil on Hatzikyriakou Street, the main thoroughfare which connects the port of Piraeus to the city, in an apparent to stop vehicles from leaving the port. Police said that 20 out of some 35 tourist coaches at the port had departed, noting that sawdust had been scattered over the oil to enable other vehicles to follow suit.

Protesting taxi drivers continued their protests in Crete too, blocking two tax offices in the port of Irakleio. In Thessaloniki, taxi drivers were to march to the city center.

Cabbies have scaled back their protests since last week when they caused transport chaos by blocking airports, ports and roads but they are continuing with a second week of strike action despite calls by authorities for dialogue.

Prime Minister George Papandreou confirmed to protesters that the government welcomed proposals as part of dialogue about the reforms but he also called on taxi workers to show sensitivity concerning the implications of their protest action on the crucial tourism sector.

Athens (Greece)

Greek Civil Aviation cancels a strike

The Greek Civil Aviation Authority Federation called off a wave of strikes scheduled to be held in August over payment delay announced a day earlier.

Tuesday’s press release had alarmed local hoteliers and tourism agents who feared a financial distraction at the peak of the tourism season for an industry that represents a ray of hope for the resurrection of the ailing Greek national economy.

According to the latest announcement of the federation, civil aviation unionists reached an agreement with government officials concerning the payment of four-month due allowances for overtime.

Belgrade (Serbia)

EU and Serbian President condemn violence in Kosovo; UN Security Council holds a meeting on Kosovo

“I condemn violence most severely. Every attack on KFOR and EULEX by hooligans and criminals threatens UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which is the international framework document for the protection of peace in Kosovo, its people and the interests of Serbia,” Serbian President Boris Tadic said in a statement quoted by Tanjug. He called for an immediate stop to violence at the Jarinje administrative crossing with central Serbia, located in northern Kosovo, and called on all the residents of Kosovo to remain calm.

Special units of Kosovo police left the two contestable border points early on 27 July morning, but local Serbs, which oppose Pristina authorities, have rejected the decision that Kosovo border and custom police officers remain in the border crossing points. As a result a group of Kosovo Serbs attacked in the evening hours of 27 July the Jarinje border crossing with Serbia (northern Kosovo), demolishing properties of Kosovo Police and Customs and setting it on fire. Unconfirmed reports say fire shots were heard in the scene, perhaps near the KFOR (NATO-led mission) site.

The attack has followed two days of a tension since 25 July when Kosovo leader Hashim Thaci dispatched special police to take control of the two disputed border crossings.

KFOR will take control of the Jarinje administrative crossing. The Kosovo police would still remain at the Brnjak administrative crossing.

The UN Security Council has put off the debate about Kosovo until late in the afternoon 28 July, because Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic could not board the plane for New York, Serbian Blic newspaper writes. Jeremic’s office says the foreign minister failed to depart from London to New York on technical grounds. UN Security Council will hold closed-door consultations about the situation in Kosovo on 28 July.

A Serbian youth has been beaten in Strpce, South Kosovo, Serbian BETA news agency reported. The incident occurred last night and the attackers were Albanian extremists, the news agency says. According to the Serbian government this is a response to the violence at Jarinje border checkpoint.

Nicosia (Cyprus)

The government in Cyprus resigns

Cyprus government ministers submitted their resignations to President Demetris Christofias on 28 July. The pressure on the government has increased after the massive blast at the naval base where Iranian explosives had been stored for nearly 30 months. The explosion killed 13 people and destroyed a power station, reducing by 53 percent Cyprus’ power generating capacity.

“President Christofias informed the members of the Council of Minister about his intention to make a broad reshuffle of the government and asked them to place their resignations at his disposal,” government official Stefanos Stefanou said after an extraordinary meeting of the government.

Christofias had made known his intention to reshuffle his government after facing unprecedented criticism for the handling of a confiscated cargo of Iranian explosives and munitions bound for Syria in 2009, which blew up on July 11 in a naval base in southern Cyprus.

Christofias’ junior coalition party the Democratic Party (DIKO) brought forward plans for the government reshuffle after instructing its three ministers in the government to submit their resignations.

Sofia (Bulgaria)

Bulgarian President vetoes the ban on former security staff to be diplomats

Bulgaria’s President Georgi Parvanov has imposed a veto on legal amendments, which ban former State Security agents from the times of the communist regime from taking up key diplomatic positions. After the veto, the amendments will be transferred back to parliament for further debates. President Parvanov points out that several amendments of the bill adopted on July 14 breach the Constitution and basic principles of international law.

He criticizes most harshly those amendments, which ban agents of the former secret services from representing Bulgaria abroad and rules diplomats with secret police records to be recalled from abroad.

Sofia (Bulgaria)

Australia appoints new ambassador in Bulgaria, Albania and Greece

Jenny Bloomfield will be Australia’s new Ambassador to Greece with non-resident accreditation to Albania and Bulgaria. Bloomfield is expected to take up her appointment next month. She will replace Jeremy Newman who has been Ambassador since March 2008.

Jenny Bloomfield is a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and until recently was Assistant Secretary, Middle East Branch, a position she held since February 2010. Bloomfield has previously served overseas in Japan and Iran.

 

BALKANS ECONOMY

Economy

Ankara (Turkey)

TBB backs Turkish Central Bank’s move to halt lira depreciation

The Turkish Central Bank’s latest efforts to cool down credit growth are in line with the current situation and will have a positive effect, the head of the Turkish Banking Association, or TBB, stated on 28 July.

In an effort to halt the sharp depreciation of the Turkish currency, the Central Bank on 25 July brought a halt to current exchange auctions in which the bank was purchasing as much as $30 million from the markets per day. The bank also cut the reserve rate requirements for banks in foreign currency deposits from 11 to 10 percent for one year, while the cuts for up to three-year deposits and over three-year deposits were by 1.5 and 2 percentage points, respectively.

Ankara (Turkey)

Belgian Ageas pays US$220M for 31% in Turkish Aksigorta

Belgium’s Ageas will pay US$ 220M for a 31 percent share in one of Turkey’s biggest non-life insurers, Sabancı Holding’s Aksigorta, the holding’s chief executive officer Zafer Kurtul confirmed. The remaining 38 percent stake in Aksigorta is open to the public.

The legal process regarding the partnership has been completed; Sabancı and Ageas will pursue future plans for Aksigorta together, the CEO said.

Athens (Greece)

S&P downgrades Greece; Athens pushes the sale of gambling company OPAP

Standard & Poor’s relegated Greece’s sovereign credit rating further into junk territory on Wednesday, lowering it to CC from CCC, saying the European Union’s proposed debt restructuring would put the country into “selective default.”

Greek ministers initiated discussion of plans for accelerated privatization of state assets with talks set to focus on a planned selloff of state gaming company OPAP and the extension of a lease on Athens International Airport.

The aim is to meet targets imposed by Greece’s foreign creditors — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, also known as the troika — and raise 1.3 billion euros in revenue by the end of September with an addiitional 3.5 billion euros in the last quarter.

Аthens (Greece)

Greece names dealer managers for the bond swap operation

Greece named the joint dealer-managers for the voluntary Greek bonds exchange agreed in the latest EU summit in Brussels last week, due to start this August.

BNP-Paribas, Deutsche Bank and HSBC were appointed as joint dealer-managers for the implementation of the private sector involvement under the terms of the second bailout pact to support Greece overcome an acute debt crisis, announced the Greek Finance Ministry in a press release.

Tirana (Albania)

Albania imposes a fine of half a million US dollars an Austrian company over broken investment promise

Albanian authorities slapped a fine of US$ 578,620 on the Austrian-owned Albanian Chrome Sh.p.k. (ACR) firm over its failure to realize its contracted investments at the Bulqiza mine.

A statement by Albania’s ministry of economy, trade and energy said checks carried out by the National Agency of Natural Resources show that for the period of 2007-2008 ACR had invested 3.09 million U.S. dollars at the mine instead of 3.4 million U.S. dollars.

ACR is fully-owned by Austria’s DCM DECOmetal, which mines chrome and processes it into ferrochrome at a smelter in Elbasan, central Albania, and ships it to Western Europe, the U.S. and China.

Sofia (Bulgaria)

Lukoil’s management arrives in Sofia to discuss license revocation

Members of Russian oil major Lukoil management have urgently arrived in Sofia for talks over the revoked licenses of its refinery in Bulgaria to sell fuels, a former ambassador in Moscow is quoted as saying by Novinite.com. Ilian Vassilev told the Bulgarian national radio he knows who heads the delegation, but refused to disclose his name since “this type of negotiations are too discrete”.

Bulgaria’s Neftochim, the only oil refinery in the country and controlled by Russia’s giant Lukoil, started on 27 July to reduce crude processing to effectively stop production after the customs office revoked its licenses.

Currently, the customs agency is conducting a full inventory of the company, which is the largest fuel importer in Bulgaria, by checking the available fuel in the storage in order to assess the amount of the excise owed by Lukoil.

Authorities have informed that upon full payment, the company would again be allowed to sell fuels, but until then it could trade only the quantities that are outside the refinery.

Lukoil Spokesperson Dmitry Dolgov said that the Russian side had been led to believe that it had successfully negotiated the postponement of the installation of measuring devices by the end of 2011 with the Bulgarian authorities. The spokesperson of the Russian oil giant confirmed that the management of the company had arrived in Sofia and was in talks with representatives of the Bulgarian authorities.

On 27 July, customs agency’s head Vanyo Tanov had announced termination of the license of the Lukoil Neftochim refinery for operating the Neftochim Burgas and the Oil Terminal Rosenetz tax warehouses.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov will not meet with Lukoil Neftochim Burgas management, FOCUS News Agency reported.

(Mariela Zamfirova, MBA; 29 July 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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