THE UNBIASED OBSERVERS, Issue 26


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Tuesday, 9 August 2011

 

Today’s Topics:

Politics and others:

  • Turkish FM Davutoğlu’s Three Messages to Syria’s President al-Assad;
  • A Turkish Court Issues Arrest Warrants to Seven Top Militaries;
  • Turkey Sends 50 T Humanitarian Aid to Somalia;
  • German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle Visits Kosovo on 11 August;
  • Germany and UK Warn that Serbia and Kosovo May Miss a Historic Chance;
  • KFOR Commander Names Organised Crime as the Real Problem of Kosovo;
  • Bosnian Farmers Block Border Crossing Points with Croatia;
  • 84 Parties Register for Local Elections in Bulgaria Expired, Registration for Presidential Elections in Progress;
  • Road Workers’ Strike in Serbia

Economy:

  • Dispute between Turkey and Cyprus over a Gas Exploration in the Mediterranean;
  • Turkey Hit by the Global Crisis;
  • Greece’s Prime Minister on the Phone as Athens Stock Exchange Registers a Slump of 4.79%;
  • Greek Taxi Strike’s Cost = 300, 000 Bookings;
  • Romania’s Growth to Exceed 1.5% in 2011 according to the Central Bank’s Forecast;
  • Romania’s Rompetrol Expands its Network in Bulgaria;
  • Bulgarian Finance Ministry Denies the Establishment of a Crisis Headquarters;
  • Unilever Buys the 2nd Largest Ice-Cream Company in Bulgaria

 

BALKANS – POLITICS & OTHER

Ankara (Turkey)

Turkish FM Davutoğlu’s Three Messages to Syria’s President al-Assad

As reported earlier, the Turkish Foreign Minister heads for Damascus on 9 August to send a final warning message to the Syria’s President. In fact, the messages that will be delivered by the Turkish diplomat number one are three.

The first message the Turkish Foreign Minister plans to dispatch to Damascus is the urgency in ending the military operations against protesters. A recent operation launched on the same day as the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan caused widespread fury in the Islamic world.

As per a report of Hurryiet Daily, Davutoğlu’s second message will be a call for the al-Assad regime to announce a concrete date for free elections in which all political parties that wish to join can run for Parliament.

The third message will be related to freeing all political prisoners and taking additional reform steps.

The security summit held at the Turkish Prime Minister’s Office on 8 August reviewed all potential moves Turkey could undertake if the al-Assad regime decides to go its own way and continue imposing violence. Sources said all possible options – economic, political and security-related – were considered. U.S. envoy for the Middle East, Fred Hof, held talks with Turkish officials in Ankara, where he entered the Prime Minister’s Office through the back door, presumably to avoid media attention.

Ankara (Turkey)

A Turkish Court Issues Arrest Warrants to Seven Top Militaries

A Turkish court issued arrest warrants for seven active generals and admirals pending trial over an alleged plot to overthrow the government, Anatolia news agency reported. The suspects included Gen. Nusret Taşdeler, the former head of the Aegean forces who was appointed as head of the army’s educational command during the recent Supreme Military Council, or YAŞ, and İsmail Hakkı Pekin, the intelligence chief of the General Staff.

Retired Gen. Hasan Iğsız, the former head of the First Army, is also among the suspects, the Anatolia news agency reported.

The other military personnel ordered to be brought to court were Adm. Mehmet Otuzbiroğlu, Gen. Mehmet Eröz, Gen. Hıfzı Çubuklu, Gen. Mustafa Bakıcı, Adm. Alaettin Sevim, Col. Sedat Özüer and Retired Col. Fuat Selvi.

The officers were among 22 suspects charged last month in the “Internet Memorandum” investigation for attempting to oust the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government.

There were no immediate reports of the officers being detained.

Ankara (Turkey)

Turkey Sends 50 T Humanitarian Aid to Somalia

Two cargo planes carrying food and medical supplies took off on 8 August in the first aid shipment of Turkey to the famine-stricken Somalia, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported.

The aid campaign was launched jointly by the Turkish Red Crescent Society, Turkey’s Cooperation and Development Agency and the country’s Religious Affairs Directorate General. The aid includes 50 tones of food supplies that can sustain 1, 500 families for a month.

The World Food Program estimates that 10 million people already need humanitarian aid. The UN Children’s Fund estimates that more than 2 million children are malnourished and in need of lifesaving action in the region.

Belgrade (Serbia)

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle Visits Kosovo on 11 August

Representatives of Serbs from northern Kosovo communicated to citizens who have kept the barricades in Rudare near Zvecan for 14 days now that Serbia stands firmly by their side, and called on them to back the Serbian top government officials because this serves mutual interests.

Serbian President Boris Tadic said during the 7 August meeting with heads of Nrothern Kosovo municipalities and municipal assemblies that peace and unity are of utmost importance for the province. The President’s press service released that participants of the meeting agreed that the international institutions in Kosovo-Metohija KFOR and EULEX have to remain neutral in reference to the status issue. During the talks, the special emphasis was placed on the support Serbia must offer to its citizens in northern Kosovo, and vice versa, the release adds.

The European Union is satisfied with the agreement of Belgrade and Pristina with KFOR on easing the crisis in Kosovo and fully supports the activities of KFOR aimed at implementing the agreement,  Michael Mann, spokesperson for EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, told Tanjug. It is necessary, he said, that the authorities in Belgrade and Pristina do everything to calm the tension, and remove the barricades in the north of Kosovo, which is part of the agreement.

In an interview for Radio Kosovo, KFOR spokesperson Hans Dieter Wichter said Serbian officials had very little time to hold talks with local structures in the north of Kosovo, adding that he believed all issues would be resolved by September and the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue continued.

A meeting between municipal officials from all four northern Kosovo Serb municipalities will be held in the town of Leposavic on 9 August to discuss the interim agreement reached recently between the Serbian government and KFOR.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle will travel to Kosovo on 11 August at the end of his three-day Balkans tour starting on 9 August that will also take in Croatia and Montenegro.

A spokesman said Westerwelle would hold talks with officials including Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and General Erhard Buehler, the German commander of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force.

Belgrade (Serbia)/Pristina (Kosovo)

Germany and UK Warn that Serbia and Kosovo May Miss a Historic Chance

Germany’s and UK’s Foreign Ministers – Guido Westerwelle and William Hague, respectively, warned that Serbia and Kosovo may miss a historic chance unless they find a diplomatic solution to the burning issues, the online edition of Serbian Blic newspaper writes.
In an article signed by the two Ministers published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung they say that the invitation for Croatia to join the EU shows what the countries in the region can achieve, while the latest events in Kosovo prove that all the achievements are put at risk.
“Serbia and Kosovo should find a diplomatic solution, which will respect the borders of Kosovo, improving people’s life and would show the way to the EU membership.”

Pristina (Kosovo)

KFOR Commander Names Organised Crime as the Real Problem of Kosovo

“It is for the organised crime and not politics that is the problem in Kosovo,” says KFOR Commander Erhard Buhler, the online edition of Serbian Politika newspaper reports.

In Buhler’s words, the criminals control North Kosovo and incite inter-ethnic tension any time their private interests are affected. According to the KFOR commander, the criminals are from the Serbian minority and most of the Albanians have no problems cooperating with them.

“Organised crime groups use the extremist groups to achieve their goals and mobilise the military to erect barricades on the roads. We have come to a point when the Serbs are paid to build the barricades,” Buhler comments.

Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Bosnian Farmers Block Border Crossing Points with Croatia

Bosnian farmers on 8 August blocked four important border crossings with Croatia in protest over delays in payments of farming subsidies and complaints over how subsidies are distributed. The Doljani border crossing, on one of the main roads to the Adriatic coast, was completely blocked since 8 August morning, with cars backed up for several kilometres, officials and local media said. Croatia’s Adriatic coast is a major holiday destination for Bosnians in the summer. Three other border crossings – Izacic (northwest), Kamensko (south) and Orasje (northeast) – were also completely or partially blocked, national radio BHR1 said.
In the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, some 200 farmers gathered in front of the government building of the Muslim Croat federation – which makes up post-war Bosnia together with the Serbs’ Republika Srpska – where their representatives were meeting officials.

Sofia (Bulgaria)

84 Parties Register for Local Elections in Bulgaria Expired, Registration for Presidential Elections in Progress

A total of 84 political formations have submitted registration papers for Bulgaria’s 2011 local elections scheduled to take place on October 23, 2011, together with the presidential vote.

The deadline for applications for registration with Bulgaria’s Central Electoral Commission (CEC) expired 8 August at 5 pm.

Since the registration for the Bulgarian presidential elections is still in progress, 7 parties and 3 initiative committees have applied for registration to date, even though some of them – such as GEBR – have not announced their nominees yet. The parties in question are the ruling center-right party GERB, the Bulgarian Democratic Forum, the nationalist party VMRO-BND, the rightist Union of Democratic Forces and Democrats for Strong Bulgaria which together form the Blue Coalition, a “National Salvation Front”, and the major nationalist party “Ataka”. The three initiative committees applying for registration including the committee that nominated Bulgaria’s ex EU Commissioner Meglena Kuneva and her running mate Lyubomir Hristov, the marginal bidders Dimitar Kutsarov and Kameliya Todorova, and Atanas Yordanov, one of the notorious ethnic Turkish Yuzeirov brothers who are known for trying to found an “Ottoman” party and Musa Ali Hyusein.

The deadline for presidential vote registration is August 18.

Belgrade (Serbia)

Road Workers’ Strike in Serbia

The workers at toll points in Serbia from Nibens Group will start a strike on 9 August if their monthly wages are not paid. This becomes clear from the Independent Trade Union of Road Workers, quoted by Blic Newspaper. The protests will be organized in 10 Corridor highway, border check-points and toll points. AEK Banka that took the control of Nibens Group after previous owner Milo Djuraskovic’s arrest has to pay the remuneration of the staff. The Bank confirmed that it would pay the monthly wages of two companies from Nibens Group but the trade union rejected any partial solution.

 

BALKANS ECONOMY

Economy

Ankara (Turkey)/Nicosia (Cyprus)

Dispute between Turkey and Cyprus over a Gas Exploration in the Mediterranean

Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras have both reacted to Turkey’s response to Greek Cyprus’ plans to launch gas exploration activities in the Mediterranean Sea.

Christofias called on international society to speak up against Turkey and defend international law. In his words, it is unacceptable that Turkey can make reference to international law when it has not signed the U.N.’s Maritime Law agreement.”

A senior Turkish Foreign Ministry official on condition of anonymity told the Hürriyet Daily News: “We have conveyed our reservations to the U.N., the firm and the U.S. several times and warned that [such drilling] would not be legitimate and would have negative outcomes on the political [reunification] process for Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots.”

Meanwhile Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said the Greek Cyprus was the sole legitimate representative of the island and they have the right to explore for natural gas in the Mediterranean Sea. In a written statement Delavekouras said: “Turkey, in a ‘zero problems with neighbors’ strategy, is holding the most part of the island and the army is hindering the process to reach a solution. Greek Cyprus is the sole representative of the island and uses its right to launch gas exploration activities in line with international and maritime law.”

Ankara (Turkey)

Turkey Hit by the Global Crisis

Erdem Başçı, the governor of Turkey’s Central Bank said that dramatic recent losses in both the value of the Turkish Lira and the Istanbul Stock Exchange were “a response to the global sales wave.”

Turkish stocks fall for a seventh day, plunging more than 7 percent, making the benchmark index the world’s biggest loser this year on a dollar basis outside of Egypt, Hurryiet reports.

Athens (Greece)

Greece’s Prime Minister on the Phone as Athens Stock Exchange Registers a Slump of 4.79%

Prime Minister George Papandreou continues his telephone conversations with European leaders on Monday as the Athens Stock Exchange (ATHEX) was among the bourses feeling the adverse effects due to the market uncertainty surrounding the euro.

The Athens Stock Exchange opened with a loss and went on falling to show a drop of 4.79 percent at mid-day on Monday, after a downgrade of US debt by Standard & Poor’s and uncertainty over action to support the euro area. The Athens Stock Exchange general index ended at 998.24 points, declining by 6 percent from Friday’s closing figure of 1,062 points. The blue chip FTSE/ATHEX 20 index dropped 5.84 percent to end at 432.26 points.After the end of the session, the Capital Market Commission was forced to resort to a ban on short selling until October 7.

As per the report of Kathimerini, the Greek Prime Minister spoke to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker Monday.

According to sources, the discussions focused on three key areas: the reforms being carried out by the government, further measures that the eurozone can take to bolster the single currency, and the current market volatility threatening the euro (which prompted the European Central Bank to declare it would buy Italian bonds).

Papandreou proposed that the eurozone adopt more convincing measures to calm markets. He suggested that the region should move more quickly to issue Eurobonds, to impose a financial transaction tax and to strengthen the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF).

Papandreou also urged the European leaders to ensure that there would be no complications in Greece receiving its next loan installment, which will amount to 8 billion euros and is due in September. It is likely that Athens will not receive this loan with the improved terms agreed in Brussels on July 21.

Athens (Greece)

Greek Taxi Strike’s Cost = 300, 000 Bookings

The taxi strike that ended last week has cost the country between 250,000 and 300,000 bookings for the September-October period while tourism is set for a sudden 20 percent decline, according to industry sources, quoted by Kathimerini.

The problem is more acute in Athens, which has already had a worse year than 2010 owing to riots and demonstrations in previous months.

While foreign arrivals to Greece have posted a 10 percent annual increase in the year to July, Athens International Airport is the only one to to have registered a decline in arrivals, by 2.74 percent, according to the Association of Hellenic Tourist Enterprises (SETE).

Bucharest (Romania)

Romania’s Growth to Exceed 1.5% in 2011 according to the Central Bank’s Forecast

Romanian economy is likely to grow by more than 1.5% in 2011, fueled by good farm output, central bank governor Mugur Isarescu said on 8 August.

Romanian central bank is not looking to impose Hungary-like measures on Swiss franc lending, despite rising interest rates, Isarescu is quoted as saying by Mediafax Agency.

Romanian central bank will not lower its main interest rate over the next period, because a more relaxed policy would be inopportune at the moment, central bank’s deputy governor Cristian Popa commented.

Bucharest (Romania)

Romania’s Rompetrol Expands its Network in Bulgaria

Romanian oil company Rompetrol has opened its 58th gas station in Bulgaria, amidst plans to boost its presence on the Bulgarian market.

The newly opened Rompetrol gas station is located on the E79 road, 10 km north of the Kulata crossing point on the Bulgarian-Greek border, Novinite.com reported.

By the end of 2011, Rompetrol Bulgaria AD plans to open 5 more gas stations in the country, bringing their total number to 63, Stanimir Smilkov, commercial director at the firm, said in a statement.

Sofia (Bulgaria)

Bulgarian Finance Ministry Denies the Establishment of a Crisis Headquarters

Bulgaria’s Finance Ministry refuted the information of local media that the Ministry of Finance has set up a crisis headquarters after the US downgrade and crashing stock exchanges.  Finance Minister Simeon Dyankov also denied the information and the news about the inclusion of Deputy Finance Ministers, Vladislav Goranov, and Boryana Pencheva, experts from the Ministry’s Analysis Department and from the Central Bank, BNB, in the crisis headquarters.

The Finance Ministry further informs there are no changes in the planned 2012 State budget approved by the cabinet in April where the economic growth forecast if for 3.6% next year and 4.1% for 2013 while inflation would be 3.85% and 3.35%, respectively.

Sofia (Bulgaria)

Unilever Buys the 2nd Largest Ice-Cream Company in Bulgaria

Unilever Central and Eastern Europe has bought out “Darko”, the second largest distributor and producer of ice cream in Bulgaria.

Unilever and the Balkan Accession Fund (BAF), Darko’s current owner, announced the deal Monday, without specifying the amount of money the multinational giant will pay BAF for Darko and its brands.

The announcement says that Darko’s 80 employees will become part of Unilever’s team in Bulgaria. Darko will retain its staff and production for the Bulgarian market.

In 2010, Darko’s sales totaled EUR 7 M. Its popular ice cream brands include Eskimo, Casablanca, Weekend, Alaska, Milka. Darko is second on the Bulgarian ice cream market only to Nestle.

(Mariela Zamfirova, MBA; 9 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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