THE UNBIASED OBSERVERS, Issue 27


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


Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Politics and others:

Albania:

  • Presidential Race in Albania has Started
  • A Threat over the October Census in Albania: Change of Ethnicity

Bosnia and Herzegovina:

  • President of SDU BiH Nermin Pecanac Turns to Ambassadors for Help. Early Elections an Option
  • FBiH Government Plans Incetives for Farmers after a Protest

Bulgaria:

  • Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO Criticizes NATO Strikes on Libya

Croatia:

  • Croatian Government Repeats that Storm Operation Was Legitimate
  • Croatia Protests Negative Content Broadcast by a Serbian TV Channel

Greece:

  • Greece and Bulgaria Build Fences over the Border with Turkey

Kosovo:

  • Decision on Removal of Barricades in N Kosovo under Discussion on 9 August

Macedonia:

  • Vecer, Macedonia: Compromise with Greece is possible, says Teuta Arifi
  • Skopje Looks Forward to Seeing Autumn’s EC Progress Report on Macedonia
  • ·        US Chargé d’Affaires Meets with Macedonian Justice Minister

Montenegro

  • The Ex Chief of the National Security Agency of Montenegro under Fire in Belgrade
  • Introduction of Electoral Law in Montenegro – Condition N 1 for EU Accession Talks

Romania

  • Romania’s Health Minister to be Appointed by late August
  • 1,025 Chemical Workers in Romania on Furlough

Serbia

  • Serbian Minister Goran Bogdanovic Expects Dialogue with Pristina to be Resumed
  • German Chancellor Merker on a 1st Official Visit to Serbia on 22 August

Turkey

  • Turkey’s Security Summit Focus: Iran’s PJAK, PKK and Greek Cypriot Deals

Economy:

Albania

  • A Spike of Albania’s FDI to US$ 1 B

Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • BiH Risks Losing EUR 96 M EU Assistance

Bulgaria

  • It is Hard to Say “No” to Belene Nuclear Plant Project

Croatia

  • Tourism in Croatia 8% Up
  • Croatia’s Tobacco Producers TDR and Adris Face a Fine of EUR 360 M

Greece

  • Greece’s Ban on Short Selling won’t Rescue the Stocks

Macedonia

  • Gold Reserves Unchanged, Central Macedonian Bank Says

Serbia

  • Net Foreign Investments at US$ 683.3 M for the first 5 Months
  • Ada Bridge EUR 120 M Project in Completion

Romania

  • Romania Trade Deficit at EUR 4.54 B for the First 6 Months’11

Cyprus

  • Cypriot Banks Face a EUR 1 B Hit

 

 

BALKANS – POLITICS & OTHER

Albania

Presidential Race in Albania has Started

Tirana, Albania will have a new president next year. The upcoming elections are scheduled for July 2012. It will be up to the parliament to elect the new president. The existing president, Bamir Topi, was was sworn in as president of Albania on July 24th, 2007, four days after winning a parliamentary vote for the post. He replaced Alfred Moisiu.

Born in Tirana on April 24th, 1957, Topi is a biologist by training and holds a PhD in the field.  Topi, deputy chairman of the Democratic Party, was then elected twice more as a member of parliament and served as head of the party’s caucus.

Ahead of the official end of Moisiu’s five-year mandate on July 24th, 2007, political disagreement among the parties in Albania’s 140-seat legislature resulted in three failed attempts to choose the country’s next president, raising the spectre of early parliamentary elections.  Topi was elected in the fourth ballot on July 20th with the support of 85 of all 91 lawmakers attending the voting session, including several members of the opposition Socialist Party, who disregarded the party’s call for a boycott of the vote.

As he assumed his post four days later, Topi promised to work for his country’s integration into the EU and NATO.

A Threat over the October Census in Albania: Change of Ethnicity

Tirana, “Going Greek” in Albania reportedly is worth a monthly pension of 400 euros, SETimes writes. As thousands of Albanians flock to change their ethnicity, Deputy Chairman of the Albanian High Council of Justice Kreshnik Spahiu says the trend could be harmful to the upcoming census in Albania.

In an interview with SETimes, Kreshnik Spahiu comments: “In an inspection done by the High Council of Justice on the decisions related to the change of nationality by the courts, preliminary figures show about 4,000 citizens who have changed nationality based on judicial decisions since 2003. However, a much higher number, some hundreds and thousands of others, have changed nationality based on administrative proceedings in the civil registry offices. What I want to emphasise at this point is the fact that most of the changes of nationality have not taken place based on judicial decisions or in a judicial way, because this has been the hardest way. The changes initially occurred in an administrative way, intervening in an illegal way in the civil registry.”

Most cases of ethnicity-change are in courts in southern Albania, bordering Greece, such as Saranda, Gjirokastra, Tepelena, and Korca. In about 99% of cases, even those in courts that are not on the southern border, nationality has been changed from Albanian to Greek.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

President of SDU BiH Nermin Pecanac Turns to Ambassadors for Help. Early Elections an Option

Sarajevo, Social Democratic Union (SDU) BiH is concerned about situation in BiH. Situation is disastrous in all segments – political, economic, security, FENA reports. President of SDU BiH Nermin Pecanac announced that the party will send a letter to all accredited ambassadors to BiH next week, especially ambassadors of member countries of PIC and ask them to “encourage judicial organs to finally confront the ‘big fish’“.

“SDU is asking international community to help us get “bh. USKOK“. It is about time to face crime, if the cancer-wound according to all analysts of international community is crime, and not suffocate judicial organs, threaten prosecutors and judges“, Pecanac said.

“We want USKOK like in Croatia, where the big fish will be interesting to such institution“ Pecanac emphasized.

USKOK is abbreviation for Office for repression of corruption and organized crime which acts in Croatia in State Prosecution.

Pecanac also criticized non-forming of government at the state level.

“If they cannot reach agreement, we demand early elections“, Pecanac said adding that even if they do reach it, it will not be in favor of BiH or the citizens.

Sarajevo, Government of FBiH considered the issue of incentives for agricultural production at the special session today on demands of associations of farmers from FBiH who organized protests on 8 August, FENA reported.

FBiH Government Plans Incentives for Farmers after a Protest

Sarajevo, Government of FBiH considered the issue of incentives for agricultural production at the special session today on demands of associations of farmers from FBiH who organized protests on 8 August.

Bulgaria

Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO Criticizes NATO Strikes on Libya

The Director-General of UNESCO, Bulgarian Irina Bokova, has criticized NATO’s attack on Libyan State broadcasting TV, Novinite.com reports.

Bokova is condemning the death of three media workers in the air strike against Al Jamahiriya TV which also left 21 people injured.

“I deplore the NATO strike on Al-Jamahiriya and its installations,” the Director-General said in a special statement. “Media outlets should not be targeted in military actions. UN Security Council Resolution 1738 (2006) condemns acts of violence against journalists and media personnel in conflict situations.

“The NATO strike is also contrary to the principles of the Geneva Conventions that establish the civilian status of journalists in times of war even when they engage in propaganda. Silencing the media is never a solution. Fostering independent and pluralistic media is the only way to enable people to form their own opinion,” Irina Bokova concluded.

The UN Committee for Protection of Human Rights Criticizes Bulgaria

The UN Committee for Protection of Human Rights has criticized Bulgaria for lack of results in the fight against the corruption of the judicial system, excessive wiretapping and attempts at putting the courts under pressure, mediapool reports. Bulgaria has a deadline of one year to fix the issues.

Bulgaria has been also harshly criticized for abuse of human rights by police, poor conditions in detention facilities, use of language of hatred in public, discrimination against Roma population, elder citizens, women, children and disabled people. The principle of independence of the judiciary has not been observed to a satisfactory degree.

Croatia

Croatian Government Repeats that Storm Operation Was Legitimate

Zagreb, The Croatian government issued a release in response to a criticism Serbian President Boris Tadic made regarding a statement by Croatian Prime Minister Kosor in which she greeted the Hague indictees Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac.

In connection with the views of President of Serbia Boris Tadic regarding this year’s celebration of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and the Day of Croatian Defenders, the office of Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor reiterates that the Operation Storm was a legitimate and righteous liberation offensive, which defeated the aggressor policy of Slobodan Milosevic, says a release by the Croatian government. Operation Storm not only liberated the occupied territories in Croatia, its victory over the tyrant also opened the way to democracy to our neighbors, the office of the Croatian prime minister said.

The Croatian government will continue to advocate the development of good neighborly relations based on the principles of freedom and democracy and rejection of any form of rehabilitation of Milosevic’s policy of aggression, the Croatian government said.

In his statement, Tadic strongly condemned the statement by the Croatian prime minister, who thanked generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac for the way they had conducted the 1995 Operation Storm.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) sentenced generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac to 24 and 18 years in prison respectively, for their participation in a joint criminal enterprise aimed at forcibly and permanently removing the Serb population from the area of Serb Krajina during and after Operation Storm, launched on 4 August 1995.

Serbia’s President Tadic said in his statement, reiterating that Operation Storm took a great number of innocent lives and caused the exodus of more than 200,000 Serbs from the Serb Krajina. In Tadic’s words, quoted by Tanjug, the statement by Prime Minister Kosor does not contribute to the development of good neighborly relations between our two countries, Tadic said in the statement.

Croatia Protests Negative Content Broadcast by a Serbian TV Channel

Zagreb, The Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Monday received a representative of the Serbian Embassy in Zagreb over Croatia’s protest against “unfounded and negative media content” about Croatia broadcast by a Serbian television.

According to a release from the ministry, the Croatian side expressed strong condemnation and concern over the broadcast of negative and unsubstantiated media content about Croatia, the Croatian government institutions and the Croatian economic subjects by the privately-owned TV Pink from Belgrade.

Given the fact that the media company uses public frequencies of Serbia, Croatia requested from competent authorities of Serbia to take urgent action in accordance with all legal requirements to stop the broadcast of contents of such a nature as soon as possible, the release says.

According to the Croatian Foreign Ministry, the Serbian Embassy representative said he would forward the Croatian request to the relevant institutions in Belgrade.

Greece

Greece and Bulgaria Build Fences over the Border with Turkey

Athens, Greece said it has opened for public discussion the technical aspects of a fence to be built along part of the country’s border with Turkey, The Balkan Chronicle reported. According to the Chronicle, Bulgarian fence is to be built soon also. Both will be financed with the funds from the European Union. With all this fencing, the EU very firmly drew the borders of its union and made clear its intentions about any future enlargements.

Greek discussions on the specifications of the project, which has a budget of just under EUR 5.5 M (US$ 7.7M), will last until 20 August, the Ministry of Civil Protection said in an e-mailed statement late yesterday.

The fence, 10.3 kilometers (6.4 miles) in length, is being built with the aim of curbing illegal immigration and trafficking and will be set up in the Evros region of the country’s northeast.

Kosovo

Decision on Removal of Barricades in N Kosovo under Discussion on 9 August

Pristina, Kosovo Ministry State Secretary Oliver Ivanović says “it was clear even before their meeting with the Serbian president that Serbs would remove the barricades”.

This is because they do not intend to enter a conflict with their country, Ivanović told B92 in Belgrade on 8 August.

Bearing this in mind, he continued, it was “logical that they would harmonize their position on all important issues with top state officials”.

“This conversation was important in order not to send messages to one another via middlemen. Now, after their conversation with the president, they have a clear picture of what Serbia is doing at this moment, what it plans to do, what it can or possibly cannot do,” said he.

Representatives of Serbian municipalities in northern Kosovo will meet on 9 August to decide whether to accept an agreement Serbian officials reached with KFOR.

Their decision should serve to calm the situation in the north after 12 days of crisis, started with an attempt of the Kosovo Albanian authorities to take over the checkpoints of Jarinje and Brnjak on the administrative line between Kosovo and central Serbia.

Councilors of the four Serb municipalities – Kosovska Mitrovica, Zvečan, Leposavić and Zubin Potok – will meet at noon in the town of Leposavić and decide on whether to remove the barricades on the Kosovska Mitrovica-Leposavić and Kosovska Mitrovica-Ribarić roads. The temporary agreement reached last week would see KFOR control the administrative crossings of Brnjak and Jarinje, while Serbs in the north would remove the road blocks, set up after Priština’s attempt to take over the outposts.

And while the barricades are expected to be removed, the local Serbs are saying that they will remain prepared to react until there is a lasting solution in negotiations with the international community.

Macedonia

Vecer, Macedonia: Compromise with Greece is possible, says Teuta Arifi

Skopje. Currently major priority of the new deputy prime minister in charge of European integration, Teuta Arifi is completing the tasks of the EU Commission annual report about Macedonia, Vecer daily comments.

“It is early to say whether positive or negative, but we are going to receive good and correct report”, Teuta Arifi stated in an interview for Deutsche Welle. Commenting on the name issue with Greece Arifi said finding decision and compromise is quite possible because Every problem has a solution.

Skopje Looks Forward to Seeing Autumn’s EC Progress Report on Macedonia

Skopje, The autumn progress report of the European Commission for Macedonia is still in preparation and I cannot speculate over its content, said British Ambassador, Christopher Yvon, quoted by MIA Agency.

“The coming EC report will note the areas where progress has been made. If there are areas where improvement is required, it will be duly identified in the report”, Yvon told journalists at the sidelines of the signing of a cooperation memo regarding project “Support to Public Administration Reforms”.

He voiced expectation that positive assessments of the recent early parliamentary elections would be included in the report.

“International observers noted the well-administered parliamentary elections, which was saluted by the international community. I expect this to be in the report, as well as the lessons learned. However, I am not the one writing the report”, added Yvon.

US Chargé d’Affaires Meets with Macedonian Justice Minister

Skopje, Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy to Macedonia Brian Aggeler congratulated Blerim Bexheti on his new post as Justice Minister and reaffirmed his country’s readiness to assist Skopje in further implementation of the rule of law, MIA reported  The US is appreciating Macedonia’s progress in this sphere, Aggeler said. Bexheti extended gratitude to an underlined the significance of the overall US support of Macedonia.

He also voiced his commitment to bolster the activities for realization of Macedonia’s strategic goals – the EU, NATO membership, the Ministry of Justice said in a press release.

Montenegro

The Ex Chief of the National Security Agency of Montenegro under Fire in Belgrade

Podgorica/Belgrade, Former Chief of the Agency for the National Security of Montenegro Vasilije Mijovic was attacked in Belgrade on 9 August, Blic reported. Fire was opened against the car of Mijovoic but he survived the attack since the automobile was armoured. He returned fire at his attackers. It is not known whether anybody was injured.

Introduction of Electoral Law in Montenegro – Condition N 1 for EU Accession Talks

Podgorica, Leader of the New Serbian Democracy (NOVA) Andrija Mandic announced that the opposition will require the Montenegrin parliament to call an extraordinary sitting in late August, during which MPs would discuss the electoral law and re-introduction of the Serbian language in the Montenegrin educational system, Tanjug reported.

He said that opposition parties would call on the Montenegrin parliament to hold the extraordinary sitting by 1 September so that the issue of the Serbian language and electoral law could be solved before the beginning of the school year and the delivery of the European Commission’s final opinion.

Mandic noted that the opposition’s request for the Law on Education to be changed was triggered by the need for setting up a society without linguistic discrimination.

The government is severely discriminating against the largest linguistic community and obstructing education in the Serbian language, and it is our European task to confront this primitive and assimilation-oriented discrimination, Mandic said in an interview for the Podgorica-based daily Vijesti.

Replying to the question as to how NOVA would react in case the Montenegrin government remains firm in its stand that school classes should be based solely on the Montenegrin language, Mandic said that Serbian-speaking citizens have started announcing with increasing frequency that they would not send their children to school if this tendency persists.

The Montenegrin parliament did not adopt the electoral law on July 31, and the next term for adoption of the legislation is 31 December. A two-third majority in the parliament is needed for the adoption of the law.

The opposition set re-introduction  of the Serbian language into the Montenegrin educational system and resolving citizenship issues as the conditions which need to be met so that they would back the adoption of the electoral law. The deadline for modification of the document has so far been extended on as many as seven occasions.

The adoption of the electoral law is Brussels’ first condition for Montenegro to be granted the date of beginning of EU pre-accession talks.

Romania

Romania’s Health Minister to be Appointed by late August

Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc is quoted by Mediafax as saying that the ruling coalition has discussed the need to find a new health minister and hopes a nomination for the position will be made by 19 August.

Health Minister Attila Cseke resigned recently, as a sign of protest to the funds the Health Ministry has been allotted at this year’s first budget revision. The late revision of Romania’s state budget was finalized beginning of August.

1,025 Chemical Workers in Romania on Furlough

Bucharest, Romanian state-run chemical producer Oltchim Ramnicu-Valcea (OLT.RO) said it will put 1,025 employees on furlough until the end of August, due to lack of financing for daily operations.

Serbia

Serbian Minister Goran Bogdanovic Expects Dialogue with Pristina to be Resumed

Belgrade, Serbian Minister for Kosovo and Metohija (KiM) Goran Bogdanovic expects freedom of movement will be established in Kosovo as early as 9 August. In a statement, quoted by Tanjug, he commented that peace would be re-established and the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina resumed. The 7 August meeting between representatives of Serbs from northern Kosovo and Serbian President Boris Tadic made Bogdanovic positive that the current crisis in the Kosovo north will be resolved.

Bogdanovic noted that KFOR was very constructive when it came to the current situation.

“We had direct talks with Buehler and I can say that despite the lack of confidence in KFOR Buehler has proven himself to be very responsible, constructive and willing to solve the problem. It was obvious he wanted the crisis to end peacefully as soon as possible,” Bogdanovic said.

On the other hand, unfortunately, EULEX and UNMIK were nowhere to be found, Bogdanovic noted.

Bogdanovic believes there is no much need for himself and Head of the Belgrade team in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue Borislav Stefanovic to visit KiM again soon. He added that their role was now to help the people in Kosovo with money and enable them to live out of their jobs and that a relevant solution should be found through talks.

The Ministry for Kosovo and Metohija (KiM) said in a release on 8 August a Serb house had been set on fire in the eastern Kosovo city of Gnjilane on the same day and demanded protection of Serbs south of the Ibar River. The Ministry for KiM demanded from KFOR, EULEX and the interim Kosovo institutions to protect Serbs south of the Ibar from attacks of ethnic Albanian extremists and to guarantee safety of the people and their property.

After the house, owned by Novica Cukic, a Serb from Gnjilane, was set on fire, the Ministry for KiM addressed the international community via the release, saying something should be done urgently about the continued violence against Serbs south of the Ibar.

The ministry said such incidents were frustrating efforts to ensure peace in KiM and that every act of violence should be condemned and dealt with immediately and resolutely.

German Chancellor Merkel on a 1st Official Visit to Serbia on 22 August

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will pay an official visit to Serbia on 22 August, Blic reports. She will meet with Serbia’s President Boris Tadic, Prime Minister Mirco Cevtkovic  and members of the government. The main topics of discussion is Serbia’s membership in EU and the situation in Kosovo.

Turkey

Turkey’s Security Summit Focus: Iran’s PJAK, PKK and Greek Cypriot Deals

Turkey’s top civilian and military officials met for a security summit in Ankara to focus on Iran’s fight against the outlawed Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, or PJAK, among other issues.

The two-hour meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and included Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz and other civilian and military officials. A brief statement released following the meeting said “the officials reviewed all issues concerning foreign security issues in their broadest sense.”

According to information obtained by the Hürriyet Daily News, Iran’s fight against the PJAK, an affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, was largely discussed. It was learned that Iran had launched operation on its own and was not willing to give detailed information about their results.

The PKK’s financial and political centers in Europe and the measures to be taken to cut these links were also part of the meeting, as were ongoing NATO operations in Libya and Greek Cypriot deals with international companies to begin oil and natural gas exploration in the Mediterranean Sea.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

BALKANS ECONOMY

Albania

A Spike of Albania’s FDI to US$ 1 B

Tirana, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Albania surpassed the EUR 700,895 M (US$1 B) mark in 2010, according to UNDP Resident Coordinator Zineb Touimi Benjelloun. Last year, EUR 769,583 M (US$1.097 B) in FDI made Albania the second largest investment recipient in Southeast Europe after Serbia, and the only country in the region where investment has increased despite the global economic downturn, reports SETimes.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

BiH Risks Losing EUR 96 M EU Assistance

Sarajevo: Renzo Daviddi, Acting Head of the European Union Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina, expressed his concern on behalf of the EU that BiH authorities still have not come up with an agreement on IPA 2011, Fena reported. The programming of the EU funds started early this year and was due to finish on 1 July, yet until now there is no agreement between the BiH stakeholders on the projects to be financed by the EU funds, Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina announced.

Bosnia and Herzegovina risks losing EUR 96 M of assistance to the detriment of the citizens. The foreseen projects among other things would strengthen justice and public administration authorities, help develop small and medium enterprises, finance building of roads (Corridor Vc), water treatment and waste management facilities, and help to the education, social inclusion, and employment of BiH citizens, Daviddi warned.

Bulgaria

It is Hard to Say “No” to Belene Nuclear Plant Project

Russia’s Kommersant wrote 8 August that none of the sides involved in the Belene Nuclear Power Plant Project could easily say “no” and drop the project.

Bulgaria’s state-run power grid operator National Electricity Company (NEC) and Russia’s state nuclear company Atomstroyexport have set up a financial working group on the Balkan country’s planned Belene nuclear plant, Novinite.com reported. The financial group has been set up under the provisions of Appendix 13 to the agreement for the construction of Belene nuclear power plant, signed by Bulgaria’s NEC and Atomstroyexport, which was contracted to build two 1,000 megawatt reactors at the Danube town. Representatives of Atomstroyexport have agreed with the Bulgarian side and formally submitted to the Minister of Economy, Energy and Tourism Traycho Traykov a roadmap, which maps out the most important steps to implement the project for the construction of Belene plant, Moscow announced. No further details about the roadmap were immediately available.

The news comes days after Bulgaria’s National Electricity Transmission Company threatened to sue in Geneva Russia’s state nuclear company Atomstroyexport over delayed payments on planned Belene nuclear plant. The government in Sofia however was quick to point out that this is not a counter-claim to Moscow’s lawsuit at an arbitration court in Paris, which is again on due payments on the nuclear project.

“The action was described as a “counter claim” just because the two sums in question are similar,” a statement by the Bulgarian Economy, Energy and Tourism Ministry said.

It was not immediately clear however why the Bulgarian authorities have picked the Swiss town for their lawsuit. Meanwhile it emerged that Bulgaria and Russia will discuss possibilities for Russia’s Atomstroyexport to withdraw its EUR 58 M claim at the negotiation table. Bulgaria’s National Electricity Transmission Company has received a letter by Atomstroyexport to this effect. According to Minister Traikov negotiations will continue until 12 August at the latest. Two weeks ago Russia’s state nuclear company Atomstroyexport took Bulgaria’s NEC to an arbitration court for EUR 58 M over delayed payments for its work on two nuclear reactors.

The next day the Bulgarian company said it is ready to strike back with a EUR 61 M counter claim against Atomstroyexport over delayed payments for purchases of old equipment for the plant, worth about EUR 300 M.

Bulgaria’s Minister Traykov explained that the Bulgarian side has offered Moscow a few options on how to settle the scores without resorting to the arbitration court.

Croatia

Tourism in Croatia is up 8%

Zagreb, The number of tourists visiting Croatia this year rose eight per cent in the first seven months to 6.2 million, Minister of Tourism Damir Bajs has said, quoted by Croatian Times. That is half a million more tourists than in 2010, the Minister added. In July alone there were five per cent more visitors – or three million. When it comes to overnight stays, they increased six per cent for the first seven months to 33 million, daily Jutarnji List writes.

Croatia’s Tobacco Producers TDR and Adris Face a Fine of EUR 360 M

Croatian Competition Agency (AZTN) has found that tobacco manufacturer TDR (Tvornica Duhana Rovinj) and Adris group had monopolised the country’s tobacco market between 2004 and 2010. The companies are accused of creating a network of exclusive customers with the intention of excluding or limiting access to the market competitors, Croatian Times reported.

Under these agreements, customers were mandated to cover the majority of their tobacco needs with TDR products in return for so-called loyalty rebates, which are prohibited.
Given that 90 percent of all TDR’s key customers (90 per cent) received rebates between 2006 until 2009, they were thus bound to the company from which they purchased on average 80 per cent of their tobacco products.

TDR and Adris group could face a fine of up to ten per cent of total revenues from 2003 which were EUR 360 M.

The case against the companies was initiated by the British American Tobacco in 2004. Japan Tobacco International and other smaller competitors reported TDR to AZTN this year in form of another complaint. AZTN has ten months to evaluate their reports and decide whether to initiate another case against TDR.

Greece

Greece’s Ban on Short Selling won’t Rescue the Stocks

Athens, Greece’s decision to ban short selling of securities won’t stop stocks from falling more than shares in other European countries, if history is any guide, Kathimerini reports.

Greece’s ATHEX Index fared worse than the Stoxx Europe 600 Index when the Mediterranean country’s securities regulator banned short selling between 29 April 2010, and 1 September that year. The Greek gauge fell 14 percent over the period of the ban, while the broader measure lost 1.4 percent. In a short sale, investors bet on declines in securities by borrowing stock to sell on the expectation it can be purchased at a lower price before handing it back.

Greece’s securities regulator has said it will ban short selling on the Athens exchange as of today, for a period of two months, according to an e-mailed statement from the Athens-based Hellenic Capital Markets Commission. The group cited “extraordinary market conditions prevailing in Greece” as its reason for the prohibition. The European Securities and Markets Authority said that other national regulators had no plans to adopt similar measures.

“Banning short selling has been long proved to not work and remains a distinct threat to the free-market principle,” said Joshua Raymond, a market strategist at City Index Ltd. in London. “The market will always feel that it determines rates and prices and any ban of what actions investors can take merely postpones them from doing the inevitable.”

Macedonia

Gold Reserves Unchanged, Central Macedonian Bank Says

Skopje, Total gold reserves of the National Bank of Republic of Macedonia (NBRM) amount to 218,253,31 ounces and remain unchanged compared to the situation by the end of 2010, the bank has said. NBRM clarifies their gold reserves follow the market value and are expressed in denars.

“In the course of the first half of the year, the gold value in dollars increased, but the one in euros and denars reduced as a result of the drop of the dollar value compared to the euro and denar”, reads the NBRM press release.

Serbia

Net Foreign Investments at US$ 683.3 M for the first 5 Months

Belgrade, Net inflow of direct foreign investments to Serbia totalled EUR 479.2 M (US$ 683.8 M) in the first five months of the year, which constitutes a 26.4 per cent increase compared to the same period last year, notes periodical Konjunkturni Trendovi Srbije issued by the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (PKS), quoted by Tanjug.

In the period from January to May, the inflow of direct foreign investments recorded an increase of EUR 100.2 M (US$ 143 M) compared to the same period last year.

Inflow of direct foreign investments in 2010 totalled EUR 812,428 M (US$ 1.16 B), which represents a 38 per cent drop relative to 2009.

Ada Bridge EUR 120 M Project in Completion

Belgrade, With the erection of the last steel segment of the main span of the bridge near Ada Ciganlija river island, the banks of the Sava River in Belgrade were connected on 8 August. The execution of the project was attended by Serbian President Boris Tadic and Belgrade Mayor Dragan Djilas and city assembly President Aleksandar Antic. The Bridge on Ada will have six lanes, two tube lines, and two bike and pedestrian lanes. The new bridge, with a central pillar 200 meters high, will be 964 meters long and 45 meters wide.

Next weekend, August 13 and 14, the new bridge will be open for citizens who want to cross on foot. First vehicles will pass over the bridge on December 15, when a part of access roads will be finished and the bridge will be completed during 2013. According to Djilas, the cost of the bridge amounts to EUR 120 million not including the access roads.

The world media have presented the bridge as a construction wonder and one of the world’s largest one-pylon bridges.

Romania

Romania Trade Deficit at EUR 4.54 B for the First 6 Months’11

Bucharest, Romania’s trade deficit narrowed to EUR4.54 billion in the first six months of 2011, from EUR4.88 billion in the same period a year ago, the country’s statistics institute INS reported.

Cyprus

Cypriot Banks Face a EUR 1 B Hit

Nicosia, Cypriot banks could take a hit of more than EUR 1 B to shoulder their Greek bailout obligations, forcing them to raise capital and potentially deepening concerns over the island’s own sovereign debt, Cyprus Mail reports.

Bank of Cyprus and Marfin Popular Bank have not yet committed to join a voluntary private sector plan to rescue Greece, whereby investors will take a 21 per cent loss on the country’s bonds.

Marfin held €3.4b of Greek bonds at the end of last year, and is the biggest overseas creditor not yet to pledge to join. It faces a loss of more than €700m. Bank of Cyprus held €1.7b at the end of May.

“It’s potentially a big hit and they would probably need to raise capital if they took a 21 per cent haircut,” said one analyst, who asked not to be named.

(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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