THE UNBIASED OBSERVERS, Issue 25


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Monday, 8 August 2011

 

Today’s Topics:

Politics and others:

  • Turkey Sends a Final Warning to Syria;
  • Turkey to Safeguard its Parliamentary System via a Change of the Armed Forces Law;
  • Greece Embarks on Protection of its Border with Turkey;
  • Greek Civil Servants Prepare for a Strike;
  • The Four N Kosovo Municipalities will Take a Decision on the Roadblocks on 9 August;
  • Three N Kosovo Municipalities Might Be Granted Special Status;
  • Serbia’s Defence Minister against any Unilateral Forceful Change in the N Kosovo Situation;
  • The Serbian President Condemns a Croatian Prime Minister’s Statement;
  • Macedonia’s Public Administration Reform to be Implemented with UK Support;
  • Ohrid Framework Agreement Restores Peace in Macedonia;
  • Macedonia’s Defence Minister Meets with US Diplomats;
  • Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Sees the US Debt Crisis as a Warning against Populism

Economy:

  • Turkish Opposition Warns about Turkey’s Growing Debt Issue;
  • Greece Confident in the Second Package;
  • Romanian Government Freezes Public Sector Recruitment;
  • Bulgaria’s Prime Minister: “Bulgaria would not attempt to join the Eurozone until all EU countries shrink their budget deficit to under 3%”
  • Bulgaria’s Tobacco Monopoly Sale on Track

 

BALKANS – POLITICS & OTHER

Ankara (Turkey)

Turkey Sends a Final Warning to Syria

Turkey is set to deliver a final warning to Syria that it must end the bloodshed sweeping the country and introduce reforms or Ankara will join international measures against the regime, Hürriyet reported.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will go to Damascus on 9 August to deliver this warning following the harshest reaction yet from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the deadly unrest sweeping Syria. Erdoğan said Saturday that Ankara’s patience with the situation was running out and that Davutoğlu would convey “a resolute message” to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that he risks losing Turkey’s support.

Damascus hit back, adding to the bilateral chill ahead of the visit, but a Turkish Foreign Ministry official said Davutoğlu’s visit would go ahead barring a last-minute change.

“Syria has always welcomed consultation among friends, but it categorically rejects all regional or international attempts of interference in its internal affairs,” Syrian presidential advisor Bouthina Shaaban said, according to the official Sana news agency.

Ankara (Turkey)

Turkey to Safeguard its Parliamentary System via a Change of the Armed Forces Law

The army and government have reportedly agreed on the need to rewrite an article in the law governing the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, seen as the legal basis for military coups. The move is seen as a step toward normalizing problematic civil-military ties.

According to daily Radikal, the article in question, Article 35 of the TSK law, will continue to list protecting the constitutional principles of the Turkish Republic among the army’s duties, but a clause will also be added emphasizing that it will also safeguard the continuation of the parliamentary system.

The proposed change has received approval from the country’s main opposition party, which has typically been a strong supporter of the military.

Athens (Greece)

Greece Embarks on Protection of its Border with Turkey

According to a publication of Die Welt, Greece has started a project to enhance protection over its border with Turkey. Athens plans to build a 12.5 km long separation wall along the border so that it can prevent the crossing by illegal immigrants. The EUR 5.5 M project of the Greek Interior Ministry is proposed for a public discussion by 20 August. According to TO Vima newspaper, there is another secret much larger project envisaging a 120 km long trench along the Greek – Turkish border. The 1irst stretch of 14.5 km in the Northeastern part of the country (close to Orestiada town) is reportedly ready.

Athens (Greece)

Greek Civil Servants Prepare for a Strike

The civil servants’ union, ADEDY, says that it has no intention of encouraging its members to take part in work-to-rule protests but is likely to hold strikes to protest the government’s reform of the public sector. ADEDY had indicated that it might call on civil servants to protest wage cuts and extended hours by, among other things, refusing to collect taxes after a certain hour. This suggestion prompted a backlash from the government.

However, speaking to Skai TV on 8 August, ADEDY general secretary, Ilias Iliopoulos, said that the union was considering organizing strikes to display its opposition to the reforms.

“ADEDY has no intention of holding a work-to-rule protest or engaging in activism,” he said.

Civil servants have until the end of Monday to decide their new schedules after the government approved the extension of their working hours from 37.5 to 40.

They are being offered the option of working from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., 7.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m., 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., 8.30 to 4.30 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Belgrade (Serbia)/Pristina (Kosovo)

The Four N Kosovo Municipalities will Take a Decision on the Roadblocks on 9 August

Serbian President Boris Tadic met with a delegation of the governors of municipalities in North Kosovo. The major topic discussed was the situation in North Kosovo and the living conditions. Serbian government officials Borislav Stefanovic and Goran Bogdanovic also attended the meeting. The municipal mayors informed Tadic about the latest developments in the north of the province. They confirmed that any agreement would be better than escalation of conflict and violence. The mayors expressed expectations that the interim agreement recently sealed by representatives of the Serbian government and KFOR would contribute to stabilizing the situation in northern Kosovo. There are still barricades in the towns of Leposavic, its nearby village of Rudare and in the Zupce village near the town of Zubin Potok as a sign of protest to Pristina’s unilateral attempts to take over the Jarinje and Brnjak administrative crossings in the north of the province. Removing the roadblocks is an obligation arising from a recent agreement on the resolution of the crisis Serbian Minister for Kosovo and Metohija Goran Bogdanovic and Head of the Belgrade negotiating team in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue Borislav Stefanovic scored with KFOR. The municipalities will take a decision on the future of the barricades at a meeting on 9 August.

The traffic at Jarinje and Brnjak administrative line crossings is normal and both crossing points are under KFOR control.

Pristina (Kosovo)

Three N Kosovo Municipalities Might Be Granted Special Status

The Pristina-based daily Koha Ditore reported that the international community might grant a special status to the northern Kosovo municipalities of Zubin Potok, Leposavic and Zvecan. Representatives “of state institutions in Kosovo” expect such an outcome, not excluding the possibility that a proposal for “substantial autonomy for the north” might soon go public at the initiative of the international community, the newspaper wrote.

International friends believe that to integrate the north is mission impossible, given that they have tried that for 12 years. Therefore, to avoid armed conflict, they see giving that region a special status as the only long-term solution, a source told Koha Ditore. The source said that the international players believed Kosovo could preserve its current borders in such a way only. The idea of the international community is that the northern municipalities get recognized as separate units that will have powers in government and finance, a senior Kosovo official said.  He, however, said Kosovo authorities had not given any signal that they might find the proposal acceptable. The package offered by former UN special envoy for Kosovo Martti Ahtisaari remains the highest bid the Serbs living in Kosovo can hope for, the source said.

Belgrade (Serbia)

Serbia’s Defence Minister аgainst аny Unilateral Forceful Change in the N Kosovo Situation

Serbian Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac stated during the talks with U.S. Assistant Defence Secretary Alexander Vershbow that any unilateral forceful measure which would change the situation in the field in northern Kosovo is completely unacceptable.

During the visit to the U.S. Defence Ministry, Sutanovac and Vershbow discussed the Kosovo-Metohija issue after the unilateral action performed by special units of the Kosovo Police Service (KPS) and on this occasion, Sutanovac voiced Serbia’s stands regarding the current situation, Tanjug reported.

According to a release issued by the U.S. Defence Ministry, Vershbow agreed that the solution to the Kosovo crisis should be sought by diplomatic and peaceful means, and he backed the activities of Serbian top government officials aimed at resolving the crisis by continuing the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.

Belgrade (Serbia)

The Serbian President Condemns a Croatian Prime Minister’s Statement

Serbian President Boris Tadic strongly condemned a statement by Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor that praised wartime actions of two former Croatian generals found guilty for war crimes at The Hague Tribunal.

No election campaigns or struggles for power should be reasons to glorify those who committed war crimes, Serbian President Boris Tadic, strongly condemning the statement by the Croatian prime minister, who thanked generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac for the way they had conducted the 1995 Croatian military offensive dubbed Operation Storm. Tadic reiterated that Operation Storm had taken a great number of innocent lives and had caused the exodus of more than 200,000 Serbs from the Republic of Serb Krajina.

“I believe it is very important to know that now all those indicted for war crimes, including the Croatian generals who were convicted in the first instance verdict, are located in The Hague” the press service of the president said.

Skopje (Macedonia)

Macedonia’s Public Administration Reform to be Implemented with UK Support

The Macedonian Ministry of Information Society and Administration and the United Kingdom Government sign a cooperation memorandum within project “Support to Public Administration Reforms” on 8 August.

Skopje (Macedonia)

Ohrid Framework Agreement Restores Peace in Macedonia

Ohrid Framework Agreement has brought back the peace in Macedonia and to some great extent it has regained the trust in the institutions, said Deputy Prime Minister Musa Dzaferi, who is in charge of the implementation of the framework agreement, writes Macedonian Vecer daily. In Dzaferi’s words, the adoption of the acts on the use of languages and the authentic interpretation of the amnesty act do not violate the agreement.

Skopje (Macedonia)

Macedonia’s Defence Minister Meets with US Diplomats

Macedonia’s newly appointed Defence Minister Fatmir Bessimi met with representatives of the US embassy in Skopje, Vecer newspaper reported. The US diplomats have commended Macedonia’s achievements in the field of defence and the country’s contribution to the peace in the world.

Sofia (Bulgaria)

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Sees the US Debt Crisis as a Warning against Populism

The downgrading of the US credit rating by S&P is a sign the current times are not times for populism, according to Bulgaria’s Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov. Borisov made the comment for the Bulgarian “Trud” (Labor) daily in a phone call, saying those who must learn from the US debt crisis include President Georgi Parvanov since he has criticized the cabinet of the ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, GERB, party for not increasing retirement pensions.

“This is a strong and totally clear sign this is not the time for financial experiments and populism,” the PM said.

 

BALKANS ECONOMY

Economy

Ankara (Turkey)

Turkish Opposition Warns about Turkey’s Growing Debt Issue

The Turkish economy has faced a huge, growing debt problem since the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, came to power, negatively surpassing figures from the republic’s history in the term before the AKP rule, according to a main opposition party a Republican People’s Party, or CHP’s report, quoted by Hürriyet.

The gross debt stock, including both domestic and foreign public debt in Turkey, before AKP came to power was EUR 199 B (US$ 139 B) Turkish Liras for the 80 years after the creation of the Turkish republic, according to the report.

The figure is EUR 101 B (US$ 145 B) for the last eight years under AKP rule, the report said.

The total amount of gross public debt in Turkey since the founding of the republic, has reached about EUR 198 B (US$ 284 B). It has grown 104.3 percent in the last eight years compared to the previous 80 years before the AKP came to power, the report added.

While the population grew by 10 percent on average, the public debt per capita grew by 92 percent in the past eight years, the CHP report said. The public debt per capita has also increased by EUR 1,395 (US $2,000) during AKP rule, it read

About 2.2 million Turkish people were unable to pay their dues back to banks as of May, according to the CHP report. “Citizens whose income did not increase sufficiently are indebted more and more with time. The number of individuals unable to pay back their dues also increased every year,” the report said. The ratio of Turkish citizens’ debt to their disposable income has reached 41.2 percent, up from 7.5 percent in 2002, according to the report.

The total amount of debt that Turkish people currently owe banks is 30-fold higher than in 2002, according to the report. Turks owed a total of 6.5 billion Lira to banks in 2002, meanwhile the figure was 170.4 billion Lira in December 2010, the report said.

The foreign debt of Turkey’s public and private sector also increased under AKP rule, the report reads. The foreign debt was EUR 90.38 B (US$129.5 B) in 2002 and increased by EUR 118.1 B (US$169.3 B) by the end of 2010, reaching a total of EUR 208.5 B (US$298.8 B).

Athens (Greece)

Greece Confident in the Second Package

Greece insists that there is no danger of it defaulting over the next few months, as the eurozone comes under increasing pressure to strengthen the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), which will lend to Athens in the months to come.

“Our borrowing requirements for the transition period are covered,” Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos told Kathimerini newspaper, referring to the period until the second rescue package for Greece — which envisages Athens borrowing from the EFSF — applies. Until then, Greece will continue to borrow under the terms of its initial agreement with the EU and the International Monetary Fund. Athens is due to receive an 8-billion-euro loan installment next month.

The second package, agreed on July 21 in Brussels, set aside 109 billion euros in loans for Athens but also called for the 440-billion-euro EFSF to be strengthened and made more flexible so it can be used to lend to Greece and buy its bonds on the secondary market. This process has yet to be approved by all the governments involved and Venizelos said it would take some time for the project to come to fruition.

Bucharest (Romania)

Romanian Government Freezes Public Sector Recruitment

Staff spending must not exceed 7.2% of the gross domestic product in 2012, which means hiring in the public sector will be frozen and only one in seven vacancies will be filled, said Romanian PM Emil Boc during a videoconference with county prefects, Mediafax reported.

The Romanian Prime Minister called on county prefects and work inspection chiefs to intensify the fight against tax evasion and illegal work.

According to Boc, the measure will allow for increasing public sector employees’ wages in stages staring January 2012 to the level previous to wage cuts in 2010. The Prime Minister pointed out that, the Government will be able to hike wages only if public sector hiring is limited, Romania’s economy grows by at least 3.5% and the budget deficit does not exceed 3%.

The Romanian Government will deterimine by September the sum to be paid next year to public sector employees who won salary rights in court, and will set a payment schedule for the coming years, so that the country will not exceed a 3% budget deficit in 2012.

Sofia (Bulgaria)

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister: “Bulgaria would not attempt to join the Eurozone until all EU countries shrink their budget deficit to under 3%”

The Bulgarian cabinet is establishing emergency headquarters to monitor financial markets in the US and Europe for threats of another economic crisis wave. The headquarters are set up by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Simeon Dyankov include Deputy Finance Ministers, Vladislav Goranov, and Boryana Pencheva, experts from the Ministry’s Analysis Department and from the Central Bank, BNB. In addition, a team from the Ministry has started work on a “pessimistic and optimistic” scenario for the 2012 State budget, depending on developments on global markets. It is almost certain the next year accounts will include a relatively high inflation of 4-5%, the Bulgarian daily 24 Chassa (24 Hours) writes.

“All governments must have learned by now that they need stringent fiscal rules and disciplined fiscal policy. Every EU Member State can learn from Bulgaria’s example. We were able to handle the crisis without outside loans, without raising taxes and having a huge deficit. We are on the right track and we will keep going in this direction,” Dyankov is quoted by Novinite.com as saying.

Meanwhile, PM Boyko Borisov, commented that Bulgaria would not attempt to join the Eurozone until all EU countries shrink their budget deficit to under 3%.

Sofia (Bulgaria)

Bulgaria’s Tobacco Monopoly Sale on Track

The supervisory board of Bulgaria’s privatization agency, a wholly political body, will take the final decision whether to sell the country’s former tobacco monopoly to the sole Russia-linked bidder, the agency’s head has said, Bulgaria’s Novinite.com reported.

“The Supervisory Board is a political body. It will have to seal the deal and decide whether the Executive Board and the investor have agreed on a reasonable and acceptable contract,” the Privatization Agency director Emil Karanikolov told the Bulgarian national radio on 7 August.

He explained once again that the tender woud not be terminated and the sole bidder – Austria-registered BT Invest, behind which stands Russia’s second-biggest bank VTB – would be expected to submit its binding bid.

(Mariela Zamfirova, MBA; 8 August 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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