THE UNBIASED OBSERVERS, Issue 36


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


Monday, 22 August 2011

Politics and others:

Bulgaria

  • A Bulgarian Dissident of the 1980-s Runs as an Independent in the Presidential Vote
  • 1.5 T of Metals and Army Spare Parts Stolen at Bulgaria SE Airport
  • Over Half a Million of Bulgarians Deprived of Medical Service

Croatia

  • The German Chancellors Arrives on a Visit to Croatia on 22 August
  • Croatian PM Insists on Appointment of New Ambassadors

Kosovo

  • KFOR and Eulex Joint Operation in North Kosovo
  • Former Kosovo Liberation Army Commander Haradinaj ordered ethnic cleansing of whole of Metohija

Macedonia

  • ·        Macedonia Ready to Find a Solution of the Name Issue

Montenegro

  • Montenegrin Parliament to Adopt Election Law on 6 September

Romania

  • Fire In Danube Delta Destroys 300 Hectares

Serbia

  • European Parliament (EP) rapporteur for Serbia Jelko Kacin “Kosovo or the EU’ Dilemma Is False”
  • Serbia Faces Elections in Spring 2012

Turkey

  • Turkey Faces Protest amid Ongoing Operations against PKK Targets in N Iraq

Economy:

  • EIU Sees a 40% Chance of Eurozone Breakup

Albania

  • 300% Increase in Albania’s FDI since 2007

Bulgaria

  • Bulgaria’s Customs Agency Persists that Lukoil has been Evaded Taxes
  • Sixty Percent of Jobless Bulgarians Do Not Find Jobs for More than a Year

Greece

  • Greece’s Prime Minister George Papandreou:“Citizens want change, not elections”
  • Amid Demands of Austria, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Slovakia for Collateral, Greek Finance Minister Asks EU for Help

Romania

  • Romania’s TV Sued by Universal over Unpaid License Fees of EUR 11 M

Serbia

  • Serbia Negotiates a EUR 1 Billion Agreement with IMF, Talks Start on 22 August

Turkey

  • A Turkish Envoy Slams N Cyprus over Spending Policies

 

BALKANS – POLITICS & OTHER

Bulgaria

A Bulgarian Dissident of the 1980-s Runs as an Independent in the Presidential Vote

Sofia, Bulgaria’s dissident Nikolay Vasilev announced on 21 August that he would register as an independent candidate in Bulgaria’s October 23 presidential elections, Novinite.com reported. Nikolay Vasilev, a dissident of the 80-s and professor of philosophy at the Sofia University. In the years of the communist regime in Bulgaria (1944-1989) he was one of the most ardent opponents of the ruling party. He entered politics in 1990 as a leader of the Alternative Social-Liberal Party.

“Parties have become corporations servicing the interests of their leaders and financial supporters,”  Prof. Vasilev said on 21 August. He was also critical of the degradation on the spheres of Bulgaria’s culture and education and the criminal economic landscape in the country.

1.5 T of Metals and Army Spare Parts Stolen at Bulgaria SE Airport

Stara Zagora, 1.5 tonnes of metal machine spare parts were stolen from the local airport in the southern Bulgarian city of Stara Zagora over the weekend, Novinite.com reported. The items stolen include tank chains and armored vehicle axes, as well as other smaller items. The value of the total theft is yet to be determined, as investigations continue.

Over Half a Million of Bulgarians Deprived of Medical Service

Sofia, Over half million Bulgarians or a total of 582 809 people don’t have the option of selecting a general physician in the settlements where they live.The data was reported by the Bulgarian Trud (Labor) daily, based on an inquiry with the Health Ministry.

The most common reason is that the village is remote and/or located in a poor area. Residents of such places are forced to seek medical care in the closest town or city, which very often is far away.

The long years of reforms have not helped for improving medical services in Bulgaria. On the contrary, they have resulted in people’s lack of trust in the health care sector and boosted the awareness of Bulgaria being an anti-social country.

Croatia

The German Chancellors Arrives on a Visit to Croatia on 22 August

Zagreb, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on 21 August that during her visit to Croatia on 22 August she would talk about the strengthening of bilateral economic ties and call for pursuing the work on accession to the European Union that had led to the completion of Zagreb-Brussels talks in June as well as for Croatia to continue to actively push for stability in the region’s countries and their drawing closer to Europe.

In an interview with Croatian Television, quoted by Tportal, Merkel said German-Croatian economic contacts would be stronger now that Croatia was practically a member of the EU, namely even safer for investments.

Asked if the debt crisis in Europe would delay the admission of the region’s other countries to the EU, Merkel said it would not and that all Western Balkan countries had the prospect of joining the EU, depending on compliance with requirements.

If some countries have debts, we will not leave others outside the door. It is important, for example, that Serbia cooperate with Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina needs a government, Macedonia has to settle the dispute about its name with Greece. All this has to be solved now, but if Greece, Portugal and Ireland have difficulties now, we will not deprive other countries of their prospects, Merkel said.

Croatian PM Insists on Appointment of New Ambassadors

Zagreb, Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party Jadranka Kosor told the press on 21 August that the government would insist on the completion of the appointment of ambassadors. She indicated that the new appointments would be discussed with Croatia’s President Ivo Josipovic and a meeting would be organized to this purpose. She reiterated that Foreign Minister Gordan Jandrokovic would attend the forthcoming discussion. Last week Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor announced that she would not replace Gordan Jandrokovic though President Ivo Josipovic had insisted on that.

The appointment of Croatia’s ambassador has created some tensions between the President and the government and Croatia’s President demanded the replacement of the Foreign Minister.

According to Croatia’s President, Jandrokovic should be dismissed “because he is damaging the state and Croatia’s reputation in the world.”

Kosovo

KFOR and Eulex Joint Operation in North Kosovo

Pristina, After meeting the requests of citizens of the municipality of Leposavic, N Kosovo on 21 August, the members of the international forces were allowed to leave with a confiscated dredge, which was allegedly used in the July incident at the Jarinje administrative crossing. Local Serbs blocked a KFOR unit and EULEX representatives who wanted to enter a Srbija Sume plant near the village of Lesak, where the dredge was kept, Tanjug reported.

Leposavic Municipal President Branko Ninic told Tanjug that the situation has calmed down after KFOR and EULEX showed a seizure warrant to the citizens and released a Srbija Šume plant’s security guard. The security guard was kept by KFOR for putting up resistance against the mission’s attempt to enter the plant and take the dredge. Ninic said that KFOR and EULEX were allowed to leave the premises with the dredge, and that now the situation is calm.

EULEX prosecutors have authorized the action in north Kosovo, which is connected to the ongoing investigation, EULEX spokesperson Kai Mueller – Berner told Tanjug. This was a joint operation of the EULEX and the Kosovo police, with the assistance of KFOR, he explained in written statement. The investigation is related to one of the recent events in north Kosovo, he added.

KFOR spokesperson Hans Dieter Wichter told Tanjug on 21 August that EULEX is conducting the confiscation action upon the order of the prosecution in charge of the investigation into the incident at the Jarinje administrative crossing, N Kosovo.

Former Kosovo Liberation Army Commander Haradinaj ordered ethnic cleansing of whole of Metohija

Pristina/Belgrade, “The biggest crime committed by Ramus Haradinaj and his Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) group was ethnic cleansing of the whole of Metohija,” Head of Serbia’s government’s office for cooperation with the media Milivoje Mihailovic said on 20 August. About 40 places in Metohija were soon totally cleaned of Serbs, Mihailovic has said for the Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) in a comment on the Haradinaj re-trial in The Hague Tribunal.

Mihailovic expressed concern that the Haradinaj case might end in reducing the charges against him. Haradinaj was acquitted on all counts of the indictment in the first-instance trial but a partial re-trial was ordered as it was established that the initial proceedings were plagued with intimidation of witnesses.

Three witnesses were killed before the Haradinaj trial begun, and their families were intimidated. Two of the witnesses were killed in Kosovo, while the third one got killed in a traffic accident under mysterious circumstances in Montenegro, Mihailovic recalled.

Ramush Haradinaj, Lahi Ibrahimaj and Idriz Balaj were returned to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, for a partial retrial after the prosecution convinced an appeal judge that two key witnesses had not been heard. The prosecution argued that Hardinaj and Ibrahimaj had been found not guilty in 2005 because witnesses were “threatened and blackmailed” and could not deliver the necessary testimony, the Balkan Insight reported easrlier. The trio in the case, known as Haradinaj et al, were previously indicted on charges related to the murders, kidnapping, tortures and rapes of Serbs, Roma and Albanians between March and September 1998. During the conflict in Kosovo, Haradinaj was a commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, Balaj was the commander of the Black Eagles Unit within the KLA, and Brahimaj a KLA member stationed in the force’s Jabllanice headquarters in the western Gjakove municipality.

Haradinaj, 43, was indicted in 2004 while serving as Kosovo’s Prime Minister, and voluntarily surrendered to the Tribunal. The leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, has received widespread political support in Kosovo. Until July 2011, the Tribunal has indicted 161 persons, with ongoing proceedings for 35 accused and concluded proceedings for 126 accused, out of which 64 persons are sentenced.

Macedonia

Macedonia Ready to Find a Solution of the Name Issue

Skopje, Macedonia is ready for finding a solution to the name issue, as it is in the country’s interest, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski told reporters on 21 August in Vevcani.

The settlement of  name dispute between Macedonia and Greece is one of the pre-conditions on Macedonia’s integration in the European Union.

Asked to comment the statement of DUI leader Ali Ahmeti, who at the conference, dedicated to the Framework Agreement, urged for more intensive international community’s engagement in resolving the dispute, Gruevski said such suggestions were being presented at regular basis.

“We have been participating in all communications, contacts under the UN auspices and we wish for more efforts to be made in finding a solution (to the name row), as it is in the interest of our citizens, country. Naturally we expect from Greece to demonstrate such will and believe that it is going to be the case,” Gruevski said as quoted by MIA Agency.

Referring to Macedonia’s road towards the EU membership, Gruevski considers that the country has made serious progress, which justifies his expectations for positive European Commission’s report.

“There is a serious progress, which is also acknowledged by Brussels officials,” Gruevski said.

Montenegro

Montenegrin Parliament to Adopt Election Law on 6 September

Podgorica, An extraordinary session of the Montenegrin parliament, which should see adoption of the bill amending the law on general education, has been scheduled for September 2, the Montenegrin prime minister’s office told media on 19 August.

In line with the agreement reached between opposition leaders and Prime Minister Igor Luksic, the curriculum should provide teaching in Serbian language, as well as compulsory courses in the Serbian.

A draft of the electoral law will be discussed on 6 September.

The opposition has set out the amendments to the law on education and citizenship as the condition for the adoption of the electoral law, and the adoption of the electoral law is the first among the seven conditions the European Commission laid down before Montenegro for the date of EU accession negotiations.

Montenegrin Parliament Speaker and leader of the Social Democratic Party Ranko Krivokapic said on 18 August that he expected political will and responsibility to European integration would prevail and that the election law would be adopted on 6 September.

Romania

Fire In Danube Delta Destroys 300 Hectares

Bucharest, Around 300 hectares of vegetation in the Danube Delta Biosphere Reservation, southeastern Romania, have burned down in a fire that began 20 August, Mediafax reported. The firefighters’ intervention has been hindered by the strong wind, which has changed direction several times, and by the marshy terrain. Still, the fire has been contained and might be put out soon, unless the wind changes direction again. The cause of the fire and value of damage will be determined once the fire is out.

Reservation governor Grigore Baboianu said insects, frogs and reptiles were most affected by the fire, because they could not flee the flames as quick as birds, which are preparing to migrate. The real extent of ecological damage in the area will be learned next week, he added.

Serbia

European Parliament (EP) rapporteur for Serbia Jelko Kacin “Kosovo or the EU’ Dilemma Is False

Belgrade, According to Kacin, Belgrade is expected implement  its Action plan and make progress in the dialogue with Pristina, including a solution to the customs stamp issue which would remove the trade barriers between the two sides.

“Nobody is asking Serbia to recognize Kosovo’s independence in order to become the EU candidate or get a date for the beginning of the accession talks,” reads Kacin’s article for Novi Sad-based daily Dnevnik, quoted by Tanjug.

Kacin believes that that the ‘Kosovo or the EU’ dilemma is false, since it has not been posed by anyone, Brussels included.

Serbia Faces Elections in Spring 2012

Belgrade, “New elections in Serbia will take place in spring 2012, and the ruling coalition is going to decide whether to separate the parliamentary from local elections,” Minister of Human and Minority Rights, Public Administration and Local Self-Government Milan Markovic has said in a statement quoted by Tanjug.

Turkey

Turkey Faces Protest amid Ongoing Operations against PKK Targets in N Iraq

Istanbul, Tensions over the Turkish military’s cross-border raids against PKK targets in northern Iraq have provoked clashes in central Istanbul’s Taksim Square on 21 August and police intervened against  a group protesting the Turkish army’s actions. The demonstrators, including pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, deputies Gültan Kışanak, Sebahat Tuncel and Levent Tüzel, started a sit-down protest amid police attempts to disperse them, Hurryiet Daily reported. Strikes against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, have been continuing since the night of 17 August and Ankara vowed to continue the cross-border operations until the Kurdish militants are eliminated. PKK attacks have killed more than 30 soldiers in the last month.

The Kurdish Regional Administration has responded that the issue can only be solved through dialogue and it has condemned the military attacks. ‘It is no longer the time for violence or war. It is the time for peace and dialogue,’ the administration says in expressing its discomfort

A group of representatives of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party wanted to gather in the city’s central Taksim Square on 21 August to protest the strikes of the Trukish Army, but was prevented by the police.

“The fight against terror will continue until it is destroyed to its roots. As you have been seeing, air and land operations to the dens of terror have taken place, and they will continue without hesitation when necessary,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ told reporters on 21 August during a visit to the Central Anatolian province of Yozgat, his constituency. Bozdağ asked all parties to show solidarity with the ruling party in the anti-terror fight.

Local officials said seven people have been killed in the air operations since 17 August. According to a statement by the Turkish General Staff, 20 air attacks and 85 artillery units hit their targets on 20 August, the third day of the raids. The air attacks targeted the Kandil Mountains, as well as the Sinaht-Haftanin, Hakurk and Gara regions using advanced night vision and navigation technologies, while the 85 artillery targets including the Zap, Avaşin-Basyan and Hakurk regions. Meanwhile, a large group of PKK members attempted to attack on the Karakoç Gendarmerie Station in the eastern province of Tunceli early Saturday morning. One PKK member was killed.

 

BALKANS ECONOMY

EIU Sees a 40% Chance of Eurozone Breakup

The London-based Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) sees a chance of at least 40 percent for the eurozone to break up and an equal chance for the global economy to go into a recession, local daily Business Times reported on 22 August.

Robert Bew, chief economist of the research unit of the Economist Group, said in an interview with the newspaper that the eurozone breakup would have “disastrous consequences” that would in themselves drive a global recession. “Worse is we might get both together,” he was quoted as saying. The global markets have been going through a correction as investors turned cautious on the outlook of the U.S. economy and the risks of a sovereign debt crisis further spreading in the eurozone.The EIU has just cut its forecasts of the U.S. economic growth for this year to 1.7 percent and the world growth to 2.5 percent, respectively. However, the key issue is less about the forecasts, and more about the probabilities attached to the risks now.

“In any case, a breakup of the eurozone would immediately raise questions about the solvency of large parts of the global banking system, leading to a “second round of financial crisis, similar to the one that we saw in 2008,” he said.

“While the risk is very high that the eurozone breaks up, because we see difficulties in governments reaching a consensus around strategy, it’s not our central forecast because we also recognize that the consequences are so stark that governments will be prepared to do anything in order to avoid it,” Robert Bew.

Albania

300% Increase in Albania’s FDI since 2007

Tirana, Thanks to efficient fiscal reforms and introduction of the 10 percent flat tax since 2007, the foreign direct investments (FDI) in Albania have seen an increase by over 300 %, ATA Agency quotes an article of The Wall Street Journal. The article underlines that the 10% flat tax is one of the world’s lowest, adding that Albania is one of the Europe’s best performing economy from 2007 to 2011. Given the significance of renewable energy, Albania is pressing ahead with ambitious projects designed to exploit the country’s considerable renewable energy potentials. ”WSJ” underlines that currently Albania is estimated to exploit only 20% of its hydro resources, while the country has a capacity to build over 2000 hydro power plants.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s Customs Agency Persists that Lukoil has been Evaded Taxes

Sofia, Lukoil Bulgaria has been chronically failing to adequately pay its taxes, according to Bulgarian Customs Agency head Vanyo Tanov, quoted by Sofia Press Agency’s online news site – Novinite.com.

Vanyo Tanov recently has made an attempt at revoking the operation licenses of Lukoil Neftochim – the country’s largest refinery – on the grounds of lack of installation of fuel measuring equipment. Lukoil appealed and the court restored its right to operate, on the grounds that the termination of Lukoil’s operation would cause a disruption in Bulgaria’s fuel market and overall economy.

“In this whole process we learned how much our economy is dependent on Lukoil and we need to think about that,” said the Head of Bulgaria’s Customs Agency in an interview for the Bulgarian National Radio aired on 21 August. He confirmed that Lukoil Neftochim had already installed 30% of the legally required fuel measurement units at its facilities and that until October 80% of those are planned to be ready.

The GERB Cabinet has stirred up a lot of tension “over its attempt to impose justice” and after it has resorted to the use of fuel from the State Reserves, the case has been gradually abandoned. The City Court of Sofia restored the rights of Lukoil to operate and the Bulgarian government officials terminated the campaign against the refinery as abruptly as they had launched it.

Sixty Percent of Jobless Bulgarians Do Not Find Jobs for More than a Year

Sofia, Most of the unemployed Bulgarians have been on a job-hunt for more than a year, according to a poll conducted by Gallup International of the request of the Classa newspaper. Over 60% have been unsuccessful in their search for jobs for over a year while their share is the highest in the last 4 years. Crisis, shrinking production, nepotism and slow rate of job openings explain the trend of  Bulgaria’s “sustainable” unemployment.

Greece

Greece’s Prime Minister George Papandreou:“Citizens want change, not elections”

Amid Demands of Austria, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Slovakia for Collateral, Greek Finance Minister Asks EU for Help

Athens, In a letter sent to Eurogroup Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker, European Monetary and Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn and European Central Bank Chairman Jean-Claude Trichet dated 20 August, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos called for the EU to step in and display a united European front following a flurry of demands by several eurozone states that Athens provide collateral in exchange for their contributions to a multi-billion-euro loan package, Kathimerini wrote.

In his letter to the three EU officials, Venizelos expressed frustration with the latest demands of Austria, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Slovakia for collateral to be provided by Greece. He noted that Greece had displayed “the greatest possible good will and flexibility in order for the July 21 decisions to be immediately and fully implemented,” referring to the bailout package agreement reached in Brussels last month. The requests by the four member states followed a complex bilateral deal hammered out between Greece and Finland last week.

Venizelos, who is also Greece’s deputy prime minister, indicated in his letter that “technical solutions” could be found without stating explicitly whether these would resemble the Finnish deal. But he stressed that the EU officials needed to give out a strong message to global markets. “Technical solutions are quite easy to find, as long as the credibility and effectiveness of the program are not affected,” Venizelos wrote. “The key issue however is entirely political and must be treated as such so that clear and positive messages are sent out to the global markets and to European nations,” the letter added.

The appeal by the minister came as auditors from the European Commission, ECB and International Monetary Fund prepare for a new round of talks with government officials in Athens ahead of the scheduled release of the next tranche of EU-IMF aid to Greece in September. Venizelos, who is to meet with labor union leaders on 22 August before giving a press conference, has stressed the government’s determination to slash the budget deficit and boost growth, though on Friday he conceded that the economy would contract by at least 4.5 percent this year.

With mounting speculation over snap elections as the government fails to hit fiscal targets, Prime Minister George Papandreou told Real News on 21 August that such an eventuality was out of the question. “Citizens want change, not elections,” he said.

Romania

Romania’s TV Sued by Universal over Unpaid License Fees of EUR 11 M

Bucharest, Universal Studios International, a subsidiary of NBC Universal, has sued Romanian national television company SRTv and is claiming $11 M in unpaid license fees for a number of films and television series, The Hollywood Reporter writes.

SRTv had signed a five year, nine month contract with Universal Studios International to broadcast films such as “8 Mile”, “About a Boy” and “Do the Right Thing,” and TV series such as “30 Rock” and “Battlestar Galactica” in Romania and the Republic of Moldova.

TVR is accused of breach of contract. When Universal complained earlier this year, TVR paid a small amount of the fees, but “not nearly enough,” according to studio officials.

The suit was filed on 16 August in the Los Angeles Supreme Court by Linda Burrow, David Zaft and Lennette Lee, on behalf of Universal Studios International, based in the Netherlands, through law firm Caldwell Leslie & Proctor.

Serbia

Serbia Negotiates a EUR 1 Billion Agreement with IMF, Talks Start on 22 August

Belgrade, The talks between IMF and Serbia will start with a plenary meeting at the National Bank of Serbia (NBS) on 22 August. The talks will touch on the latest macroeconomic developments in the country, the impact of current global financial crisis on the Serbian economy and economic policy measures to overcome external risks and mitigate potential effects of the crisis. Special emphasis will be laid on implementing the fiscal policies for 2011 and 2012, while the main goal was to make sure fiscal deficit remained in line with the adopted fiscal responsibility policies.  Discussions on structural reforms will focus on public enterprises and reforms in health-care, education and pension systems, as well as on ways to improve the investment climate.

If an agreement on economic policy for the coming period is reached during the mission’s stay, the IMF Executive Board could approve the precautionary arrangement with Serbia in late September.

The precautionary arrangement provides the right to make drawings should the need arise. The preliminary talks on the arrangement took place in May this year. The arrangement would last 18 months and Serbia would have access to 200 percent of its IMF quota, which is about EUR 1B.  The IMF mission, led by Albert Jaeger, began technical talks with Serbian authorities on Thursday and will stay in Belgrade until 30 August.

Turkey

A Turkish Envoy Slams N Cyprus over Spending Policies

Ankara, “Turkish Cypriots are not investing for the future generations but rather sparing 82.2% of their budget on salary payments and similar expenses,” says Turkish Ambassador to Nicosia Halil İbrahim, quoted by Hurryiet newspaper.

According to the 2010 Annual Report on Northern Cyprus prepared by Turkey’s Aid Committee, the indebtedness of the country increased and the economic situation deteriorated.

Turkey provided financial assistance of EUR 429,109 M to North Cyprus in 2010, of which EUR 332 M flowed into the budget whereas the remaining EUR 97 M million were used as direct payments of salaries of employees in the public sector, without any portion of the assistance going in the treasury.

Of the EUR 332 M that Turkey contributed to Turkish Cyprus’ budget last year, EUR 185 M were used to close the budget deficit and EUR 147 M for investment, defense and support for the real sector. This is 32.2% of Turkish Cyprus’ total budget.

Turkey cut its contributions to the Northern Cyprus 8.7 % in 2010, because of the sharp increases in the budget deficit in 2008 and 2009. The growing 2008 budget deficit kept worsening in 2009 as well, as the newly appointed government that started its term in 2009 went for another general election in the following year, the report reads.

(Mariela Zamfirova, MBA, 22 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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