THE UNBIASED OBSERVERS, Issue 33


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


Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Politics and others:

Albania:

  • Albania’s Eagle 4 Prepares for a Mission in Afghanistan

Bosnia and Herzegovina:

  • PA’S President Abbas Expressed Satisfaction with his Visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Establishment of Council of Ministers Discussed by Social Democratic Party’s Leader Zlatko Lagumdzija and US deputy Ambassador to BiH Jonathan Moore

Bulgaria

  • Bulgaria’s Regional Development Minister Rossen Plevenliev Makes the Best Presidential Bidder, Alpha Agency
  • Bulgaria’s Cheap Property Prices can not Attract Brits Any Longer

Croatia

  • Zagreb Country Court to Decide on Sanader’s Release

Greece

  • Athens Ranks 38th Most Expensive City

Kosovo

  • UNMIK Recognizes Kosovo Customs Stamps
  • Major General Buhler “I Can’t Stop the Bridge Construction”
  • Kosovo Recognized by Niger and Guinea-Conakry

Macedonia

  • Macedonia’s PM and US Deputy Assistant Secretary Philip Reeker Discuss the Name Issue
  • Goranco Koteski Macedonia’s New Chief of Army Staff

Montenegro

  • Serbian Language Becomes Mandatory in Montenegrin Schools
  • New Letters in Montenegrin Alphabet

Romania

  • Bucharest Court Postpones for September Registration of the Social Liberal Union (USL)

Serbia

  • Belgrade – Pristina Talks to Continue on 2 September

Turkey

  • Iranian and US Envoys Discuss Syria’s Crisis with Turkey
  • Turkey Considers Radical Changes in Its Policy toward Syria
  • Turkey Discusses New Strategies in Anti-Terror Fight
  • One Soldier Killed in a Fight with PKK in SE Turkey

 

 

Economy:

Bulgaria

  • Bulgaria Shows Worst Growth Performance;    EU, Euro Area Growth Slows Down to 1.7% in Q2 2011 Y/Y
  • Bulgaria’s Delegation Heads for Kosovo to Discuss Bulgaria’s Farming Products Export

Greece

  • Mixed Signals from Paris, Difficult Times for the Greek Prime Minister Papandreou on All Fronts

Serbia

  • Serbia – IMF Agreement to be Discussed as of 18 August

Turkey

  • Turkish Union Blames the Government in Manipulating Inflation Figures

BALKANS – POLITICS & OTHER

Albania

Albania’s Eagle 4 Prepares for a Mission in Afghanistan

Tirana , “Eagle 4” peacekeeping contingent to depart on mission to Kandahar, Afghanistan, started a drill at the headquarters of Special Force Battalion, Zall Herr. The chief of AF General Staff, Brigadier Xhemal Gjunkshi emphasized that the commitment of Albania to act alongside NATO in Afghanistan is of crucial importance. “Eagle 4″contingent will go on a mission to Afghanistan in January 2012 and will be trained by US Forces.

Bosnia and Herzegovina 

PA’S President Abbas Expressed Satisfaction with his Visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sarajevo, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas assessed his three-day visit to BiH very successful emphasizing that he was warmly welcomed. BiH Presidency Chair Zeljko Komsic and members of Presidency of BiH Bakir Izetbegovic and Nebojsa Radmanovic welcomed President of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas on 16 August, Fena Agency reported. Abbas discussed the upcoming Palestine’s bid for UN full membership 

Establishment of Council of Ministers Discussed by Social Democratic Party’s Leader Zlatko Lagumdzija and US deputy Ambassador to BiH Jonathan Moore 

Sarajevo, Social Democratic Party’s (SDP) leader Lagumdzija informed the US diplomat about the latest talks concerning forming of Council of Ministers of BiH. The SDP leader emphasized that SDP is ready to form a wide coalition, if the aim would be adopting key constitutional changes and introducing root reforms in current way of work of state level of power.

They agreed it is necessary to form the power around concrete reform package as soon as possible which will make BiH stronger state which will be able to fulfill conditions for NATO and EU integrations faster, Fena Agency reported.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s Regional Development Minister Rossen Plevenliev Makes the Best Presidential Bidder, Alpha Agency

Sofia, Bulgaria’s ruling center-right party GERB will benefit by nominating Regional Development Minister Rosen Plevneliev for President, according to Alpha sociological agency, quoted by Novinite.com.

Plevneliev is the most well-known face of the GERB government after Prime Minister Boyko Borisov Alpha Research agency told the 24 Chasa daily.

The main opposition candidates – ex EU Commissioner Meglena Kuneva (independent) and ex Foreign Minister Ivaylo Kalfin (left-wing) – have almost equal chances to make it to the runoff of the Bulgarian presidential elections, whose first round is scheduled for October 23, against a candidate of GERB.

Rossen Plevenliev has been viewed primarily as a technocrat and a business expert so far and the GERB Cabinet has to look for a suitable replacement.

Bulgaria’s Cheap Property Prices can not Attract Brits Any Longer

Sofia, The news that Bulgaria has broken back into the top ten most preferred real estate markets for overseas buyers have filled some Britons with fear, according to the Independent, cited by Novinite.com

At least this is how the newspaper editor Julian Knight​ reacted to the data provided by TheMoveChannel.com, which showed that 3.3% of all enquiries in July were directed at Bulgarian property, marking the country’s return to the overseas property portal’s top ten for the first time in three years.

“Perhaps it’s because Bulgaria is outside the eurozone and is relatively cheap that it’s on the way back into favour? But as far as Bulgarian property is concerned I’m reminded of the saying: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,” writes Julian Knight.

He argues that even before the financial crisis of 2008, it was clear that “there was something badly wrong with buying in Bulgaria”– developers selling property on land they didn’t own; running off with people’s deposits; sub-standard construction; no services connected to properties.

Croatia

Zagreb Country Court to Decide on Sanader’s Release

Zagreb, The Zagreb County Court’s investigating judge will rule on 17 August whether to extend the detention for former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader or release him from custody pending further proceedings.Sanader served as the Prime Minister of Croatia from 2003 to 2009.

Sanader obtained his education in comparative literature in Austria, where he also later worked in the 1980s. He worked as a journalist, in marketing, publishing and as a private enterpreneur. He was elected leader of the HDZ party in 2000 and 2002, and with them won the 2003 election, becoming the Prime Minister. He was also reelected in the 2007 parliamentary elections. In June 2009, Sanader abruptly resigned his post.

In December 2010, the Croatian authorities charged him in two high-profile corruption indictments, but he made himself unavailable and had to be arrested in Austria. He was extradited from Austria to Croatia in July 2011.

Greece

Athens Ranks 38th Most Expensive City

Athens, Athens is the 38th most expensive city in the world, just below Hong Kong and above Lisbon, according to a triennial report published Tuesday by UBS Wealth Management Research.

The study shows the effects of currency moves and compares prices and earnings in 73 cities for 122 goods and services worldwide.

Oslo, Zurich and Geneva were the three most expensive cities. In terms of wage levels, residents of Athens come 33rd on the UBS list, below Lisbon, earning just under half of the average New York salary.

Kosovo

UNMIK Recognizes Kosovo Customs Stamps

Pristina, UNMIK recognizes as status-neutral the customs stamps which read Kosovo Customs,  the spokesperson of UNMIK Olivier Salgado told Tanjug on 16 August.

The use of these customs stamps fully reflects the status-neutral policy defined in the report of UN secretary general on June 12 , 2008, addressed to the UN Security Council, Salgado said.

He believes that  the Kosovo customs stamps approved by UNMIK should be recognized and that all parties need to respect the CEFTA agreement.

“We hope that this issue will soon be resolved during the  dialogue which is expected to be resumed at the beginning of September,” Salgado said.

Major General Buhler “I Can’t Stop the Bridge Construction”

Pristina, KFOR Commander Erhard Buehler in his address to residents of the village of Priluzje in Kosovo-Metohija late on 15 August that he cannot stop the construction works on a bridge across the Sitnica River, whić is supposed to connect this village of the Vucitrn municipality with other villages populated solely by Albanians, but for reasons of security he can secure constant presence of KFOR in that area.

I have no jurisdiction either to build a bridge or stop its construction. It is the municipality’s right to build the bridge, Buehler said.

Buehler also told the residents of this village that they should tackle concrete išues, and if they have security concerns, he will be there to help them.

I can establish a constant presence of KFOR in your village, and your neighbours have also pledged that there will be no problems, said the KFOR commander.

Residents of the Priluzje village near the north-eastern Kosovo city of Vucitrn staged a one hour-long protest rally against the construction works on a bridge over the Sitnica River.

The bridge is supposed to connect this village of the Vucitrn municipality with the villages at the foot of Mount Cicavica populated solely by ethnic Albanians. The Albanians would thus be able to get to the Pristina-Mitrovica road through Priluzje.

President of the Vucitrn municipality Zoran Rakic told Tanjug that people in Priluzje did not want the Albanians from the neighboring villages to pass through their village because of fear of possible provocations and incidents.

Kosovo Recognized by Niger and Guinea-Conakry

African countries Guinea-Conakry and Niger have recognized Kosovo, says Deputy Kosovo Albanian PM Behgjet Pacolli, quoted by B 92. The ethnic Albanian businessman who serves as Hashim Thaci’s deputy stated that the two countries recognized Kosovo “following his direct lobbying”. He did not state any further details.  The Kosovo Albanian unilateral declaration of independence, made in February 2008, has been recognized by 79 countries.

Serbia rejected the proclamation as illegal and the territory has not been able to join the United Nations.

Macedonia

Macedonia’s PM and US Deputy Assistant Secretary Philip Reeker Discuss the Name Issue

Skopje, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker held talks on 16 August in Skopje, mainly focused on the name issue, the Government’s Information Sector said in a press release, quoted by MIA Agency. Gruevski briefed Reeker about Macedonia’s commitment and responsible approach to finding a mutually acceptable solution to the dispute over the country’s constitutional name, imposed by Greece.

Gruevski and Reeker also dicussed the bilateral relations, based on cooperation, trust and friendship, as being also confirmed by the Strategic Partnership Agreement, the press release reads. The PM and his guest also talked about Macedonia’s reforms, as well as the realization of the strategic priorities of the country’s new government, namely providing conditions for meeting the European, Euro-Atlantic standards, economic growth, rule of law, media freedom, advancing the inter-ethnic relations, further progress and modernization of the society.

Goranco Koteski Macedonia’s New Chief of Army Staff

Skopje, Brigadier General Goranco Koteski, who has served as commander of the Joint Operations Command, is the newly-appointed Chief of the General Staff of the Macedonian Army (ARM).

The decrees on his appointment as head of the army, as well as promotion into general major, were signed in Ohrid on 16 August by President and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Gjorge Ivanov.

Montenegro

Serbian Language Becomes Mandatory in Montenegrin Schools

Podgorica, Montenegrin schools will have mandatory classes of Serbian, in addition to the Montenegrin language.This was specified by the Montenegrin government and the opposition in their political agreement reached on 15 August. The text of the agreement on issues regarding Montenegro’s European integration, which was harmonized between Prime Minister Igor Lukšić and the opposition and posted on the Montenegrin government website, notes that the government would initiate changes to the Law on Education.

The document also states that the Ministry of Education would draw up a regulation with regard to the unique educational program.

According to the release, in the curriculum, the Ministry will imagine education in Serbian and classes of the Serbian language as a mandatory subject, in addition to Montenegrin language, as part of the unique educational process.

The latest census in Montenegro showed that a 43 per cent majority of citizens speak Serbian.

New Letters in Montenegrin Alphabet

The Montenegrin language and literature textbooks will, starting this fall, feature an alphabet of 32, instead of 30 letters, said reports, quoted by b 92.

The Serbian language is written in Cyrillic, with a Latin variant also in use, while each consists of 30 letters.

Podgorica-based daily Vijesti writes today that two new Montenegrin language letters – “žj” and “šj” – which have thus far been used in non-standard and vernacular pronunciation, will be declared grammatically correct and in line with literary standards.

The letter “đ”, meanwhile, “will find broader usage in writing”, it has been decided.

Although the new alphabet has been introduced to the Montenegrin language studies, writes the daily, the newly promoted letters are yet to find their way to textbooks covering other subjects.

Romania

Bucharest Court Postpones for September Registration of the Social Liberal Union (USL)

Bucharest, The Bucharest Court postponed for 1 September talks on the registration of the country’s opposition Social Liberal Union (USL) as a political party, Mediafax reported.

Social democrat senator Dan Sova said a new court term has been set of September 1 because of a procedural error. The Social Democratic Party and the Center-Right Alliance, an alliance formed by the Liberal and Conservative parties, submitted their documents in view of registering their Social Liberal Union in March 2011. The new alliance’s registration has been postponed so far because a small political party intervened in court and opposed the move.

Serbia

Belgrade – Pristina Talks to Continue on 2 September

Belgrade, The talks between Belgrade and Pristina will be continued on September 2, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic said at a press briefing on 16 August. He commented that some want to undermine Serbia’s position in Europe and worldwide.

“The recent events in Kosovo should be viewed in that context. We will do everything in our power to reach a compromise over the issue of customs stamps, but under no condition will we cross the red lines of our state policy,” Djelic said.

The incidents that happened in Kosovo were rather dramatic, and illustrate that unilateral decisions have no effect and cannot produce a solution, he said.

“We stand ready to do everything within our power to find a solution for Kosovo’s representation in the international organizations, but it has to be in line with Serbia’s state interests,” Djelic added.

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Ivica Dacic stated on 16 August that Serbia cannot use its national interests as a bargaining chip in order to access the EU, and called on top government officials to communicate such messages to the international community.

Turkey

Iranian and US Envoys Discuss Syria’s Crisis with Turkey

Ankara, Iranian and American envoys paid separate visits to a senior government official to discuss the Syria crisis issue, Hurryiet aily reported.

The first visit came from Iranian Ambassador Bahman Hosseinpour to Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ in the afternoon of 16 August. The meeting lasted only 30 minutes, but no statement was made afterward.

Two hours after the Iranian envoy’s visit, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone arrived in the deputy prime minister’s office. Earlier Ricciardone met with EU Minister Egemen Bağış in the same format. Bağış said the model partnership between the two countries also requires cooperation in the fight against terror. “The U.S. is always on Turkey’s side in its fight against terror,” Ricciardone commented.

Iran sees no justification for any Western intervention in the “internal affair” of its regional Arab ally Syria, foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said. Mehmanparast also warned that any intervention by Washington will only stoke “public hatred” of the U.S. in the region.

Turkey Considers Radical Changes in Its Policy toward Syria

Ankara, Turkey will discuss radical changes to its Syrian policy when its top security council meets 18 August amid Damascus’ continued refusal to heed Ankara’s demands for reform.

“This is our final word to the Syrian authorities,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters. It’s Ankara’s strongest warning yet to its southern neighbor. “If the operations do not stop, there will be nothing left to say about the steps that will be taken,” he added.

“We are not [meeting] in optimism but rather in frustration,” a Turkish diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News on Tuesday. The National Security Council, or MGK, will meet 18 August to discuss Turkey’s reaction to different scenarios of developments in Syria.

Turkey Discusses New Strategies in Anti-Terror Fight

Ankara, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with the country’s top commanders led by Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel on 16 August to discuss mobilization of resources in anti-terror fight. The meeting came two days before the National Security Council, or MGK, meeting in which new measures will be discussed. Erdoğan, who hinted that the government might adopt a tougher stance against the PKK after Ramadan, met with his ministers to review the current state of the anti-terror fight late.

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

One Soldier Killed in a Fight with PKK in SE Turkey

Ankara, One soldier was killed in a firefight near the Zorkun highlands in the southern province of Osmaniye late 15 August, Hurryiet Daily wrote. Alleged members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, opened fire on Turkish soldiers who were deployed in the field, Osmaniye Gov. Celalettin Cerrah said in a statement. Gendarmerie Pvt. Rıfkı Damar, 21, was killed in a firefight while another soldier was injured.

Meanwhile, alleged PKK militants attacked two outposts on Küçük Kato Mountain in the Beytüşşebap district of the southeastern province of Şırnak.

Militants retreated into northern Iraq after firefights that ensued for an hour and a half.

Professional soldiers pursued the militants and sporadic gunfire could be heard, reports said, while Cobra gunships bombarded militants’ escape routes.

 

BALKANS ECONOMY

Bulgaria

Bulgaria Shows Worst Growth Performance; EU, Euro Area Growth Slows Down to 1.7% in Q2 2011 Y/Y

Sofia, The economies of the EU 27 and the Euro Area (EA 17) both grew by 1.7% in the second quarter of 2011 year-on-year, according to flash data published Tuesday by Eurostat.

The data indicate a slowdown after both zones grew by 2.5% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2011.

GDP in both EU 27 and EA 17 increased by 0.2% in the second quarter of the year compared with the previous quarter.  In the first quarter of 2011, growth rates were +0.8% in both zones.

The Eurostat data reiterate the figures released last week about the Bulgarian economy by the National Statistical Institute in Sofia. Bulgaria’s GDP grew by 1.9% in the second quarter year-on-year, and by 0.1% compared with the first quarter. Bulgaria’s economy grew by 3.4% y/y in the first quarter of 2011, and by 3.8% y/y in the fourth quarter of 2010.

The greatest growth in the EU in Q2 was registered by Estonia – 8.3% y/y and 2.2% compared with Q1. followed by Lithuania with 5.9% y/y, Latvia with 5.7% y/y, Sweden with 5.3% y/y. The largest EU economy Germany is also doing relatively well with a growth of 2.8% y/y and 0.1% compared with the previous quarter.

Only Portugal registered a decline of 0.9% y/y, while Greece did not provide data. France grew by 1.6% y/y, and by zero compared with the previous quarter. The UK, Italy, and Spain registered growth below 0.8% y/y and below 0.3% compared with the first quarter.

The only non-euro zone countries with worse growth than Bulgaria are Romania with a growth of 0.3% y/y and 0.2% compared with the previous quarter, and Hungary with a y/y growth of 1.2%, and zero growth compared with the first quarter.

The Eurostat data set also mentions that during the second quarter of 2011, GDP in the United States increased by 0.3% compared with the previous quarter (after 0.1% in the first quarter of 2011). In Japan GDP fell by 0.3% in the second quarter of 2011 (after -0.9%).

Compared with the same quarter of the previous year, GDP rose by 1.6% in the United States (after 2.2% in the previous quarter), and decreased by 0.9% in Japan (after 0.7%).

Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s Delegation Heads for Kosovo to Discuss Bulgaria’s Farming Products Export

Sofia, Bulgarian Minister of Agriculture and Food Miroslav Naydenov and a business delegation from the agricultural sector are to visit the Republic of Kosovo on 17 August 17, the press office of the ministry announced.
Minister Naydenov will meet with Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade and Industry Mimoza Kusari-Lila, as well as with Kosovo counterpart Blerand Stavelici, with whom he would open a Business Forum. During the forum, the two countries will discuss the opportunities for export of Bulgarian food and agricultural products to Kosovo.

Greece

Mixed Signals from Paris, Difficult Times for the Greek Prime Minister Papandreou on All Fronts

Athens, Greece’s hopes that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy would take a decisive step toward launching Eurobonds at a meeting in Paris on 16 August  were dashed but the two leaders backed a financial transaction tax in the eurozone, which Premier George Papandreou has said he is in favor of, Kathimerini wrote.

Merkel and Sarkozy said they were determined “to defend the euro” and called for closer economic governance among the 17 countries that use the single currency. They proposed that European Council President Herman Van Rompuy chair meetings of eurozone officials twice a year to make sure members are doing their utmost to keep their public finances in order.

There was no official comment on the Paris talks, which were being watched closely by the Greek Prime Minister by late last night. Papandreou is due to call a cabinet meeting on 18 August in a bid to get his ministers to shift their focus back to domestic matters.

The Greek PM will have to contend with domestic issues of another kind over the next few days as well. His party is due to hold its national congress on September 3 and then Papandreou is due to deliver the prime minister’s customary economic policy speech at the Thessaloniki International Fair on September 10.

However, before that he may have to deal with fresh disquiet within PASOK about the austerity measures being adopted, particularly the further cuts facing civil servants. A member of PASOK’s political council accused the government of “losing touch with reality” and adopting measures that are “nearly wiping out Greek society.”

Serbia

Serbia – IMF Agreement to be Discussed as of 18 August

Belgrade, The International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission will stay in Belgrade from 18-31 August, where it will discuss a new precautionary arrangement with the Serbian authorities, Tanjug learned at the IMF Office in Belgrade. As in the talks on the previous Stand-By Arrangement, the mission will be headed by Albert Jaeger.

IMF resident representative in Belgrade Bogdan Lissovolik told Tanjug that the talks will also deal with possible impacts that the current economic turmoil in the world markets might have on Serbia, given that each round of talks opens with an estimate of prevailing economic trends. If the agreement is reached during the mission’s stay, the precautionary arrangement with Serbia could be approved in late September, he added. Lissovolik underlined that the talks will also focus on the country’s budgetary policy for 2011-2012.

The IMF representative said that the common goal is to make sure that the budget deficit is in line with the fiscal rules stipulated by the Law on Budget System

At the recent meeting in the Serbian government dedicated to the current financial market turmoil, the officials qualified as vital a new pre-cautionary arrangement which Serbia should soon sign with the IMF.

Closing of the arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be highly important for Serbia in the time of global economic instability and in the light of the forthcoming election year, economists told Tanjug. Such an arrangement would serve as a guarantee of sustainable economic policy and stability, especially in the eyes of potential foreign investors, economists underscored.

Serbia’s B92 reports that the signing of agreement with IMF will take place in October.

Turkey

Turkish Union Blames the Government in Manipulating Inflation Figures

Ankara, The Turkish government directly plays with the consumer price index and basket prices to keep inflation low and allegedly pressures the Turkish Statistical Institute, or TurkStat, by intervening in the method of collecting data, a Turkish labor union said, quoted by Hurryiet.

Following the release of the May inflation results in June, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan intervened in the institut’s methodology, the research institute of the Revolutionary Workers Unions Confederation, or DİSK, said on 16 August.

The union said  Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan’s recent comments on seasonal food prices, inflation and the country’s macro-economic policies could be interpreted as direct intervention in the work of TurkStat, which is supposed to be an independent body whose primary responsibility is to gather the right data for accurately representing the activity in the economy.

(Mariela Zamfirova, MBA; 17 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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